There are moments in your teaching career—even in your parenting, for that matter—when you are suddenly caught off guard by….a REALLY inappropriate word!
Even with a few years of teaching experience, it still surprises me what might pop out of these precious, innocent mouths on occasion. Being a grade one teacher, I know words like “cat” and “dog” or “good” and “bad.” It is quite easy for me to come across words that I just might tell my students I do not know or pretend I have never heard of before. I love how, at this age, the words “stupid” and “shut-up” are referred to as the “s” word—very bad ones to use!
But every once in a while I get to hear some profanities used in context—the ones that make me cringe. And the ones that I can’t pretend not to know the meaning because they need to be dealt with.
Our school librarian recently shared a new book with the staff. It was a children’s picture book called The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Tobin, and illustrated by Dave Coverly. The book is about a boy named Michael who loves collecting interesting and unusual words (oh the pictures are so great for showing his collection of words!), and stumbles upon a word that is unfamiliar to him. He learns that it is a “naughty” one, and decides it is worth sharing with his peers at school.
Isn’t that how it goes? Perhaps it depends on what kind of reaction the word got in the first place. Perhaps it is a way of discovering meaning. Perhaps it is a way of getting attention or getting out ones emotion.
In the story, Michael says it in class. The teacher deals with it by having Michael find new and interesting words. Immersed in his new vocabulary, Michael forgets about the inappropriate word that was initially so intriguing.
Having the experience of hearing an inappropriate word in class led me to do some research on this topic and young children. Here is a great article I came across and found helpful.
While I don’t know what the right answer is or if there is a solution that works for every situation, I do know from my “research” what the Bible says:
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10 NIV)