Sticks and Stones. . .

Do words matter? When I was a bit younger, someone said to me that my children were precocious. My first thought was, gosh that sounds harsh. Seeing the expression on my face, the person must have known what I was thinking because they then proceeded to define the term to me. From that day forward I vowed to make it a habit to either ask what a word means that I am not familiar with or to look it up in a dictionary.
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So, what is it with the education world trying to co-opt the word rigor? Rigor, by definition, is not something that I want my kids to experience in education. Why do we not use the term vigor when it comes to education? Vigor means full of life, healthy physical and mental power. Rigor has a negative connotation whereas vigor is positive.
I do not want my kids learning that people are strict, unyielding, or harsh. I want my kids to be active learners. I want my kids to be creative communicators who know how to learn and can communicate and collaborate with a global audience. Now this kind of agility and adaptability lends itself better to the term vigor rather than rigor.
Do you think words matter? Would you prefer your kids to be vigorous or rigorous learners? Let me know in the comments.
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4 comments on “Sticks and Stones. . .

  1. Thanks for sharing your insight on this Tim. Yes, words do matter. Particularly when there is such diversity in interpretation. Like you, I prefer the term “vigor” when it applies learning and education. I think that vigor is unavoidable when purpose, mastery, and autonomy (Drive, Daniel Pink) are key ingredients in a personalized learning salad. My own kids play Minecraft and basketball with vigor. They read fiction and build Lego kits with vigor. They bake cookies, play guitar, and take photographs with vigor. There pursuits of mastery in these endeavors is largely self-directed and as you would guess, there are often times when I have to ask them to take a break while we do something else. What if school was so vigorous teachers would have to ask their students to take a break from their learning?!? This then opens the larger discussion about other outdated educational practices. Have a great holiday & weekend Tim, Bob

    • Thanks Bob. It just grinds my gears when people talk about making courses or curriculum rigorous. I oftentimes feel like I’m not being a team player when rigor is talked about in meetings. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  2. Educators often use words to reflect something engaging going on in their classrooms. Folks that are not in our field, often jump on the bandwagon of “buzz words” and take our own words out of context. Words are important and have a greater impact then we sometimes realize. Our students will replay something we state in passing over and over in their heads trying to fit it in a category–sometimes incorrectly placed! Emails and text messages are often left to interpretation and many times can be misconstrued! Tone is NOT always reflective in text!

    • Thanks Pam. Robert (see 1st comment) and I have been fighting the term rigor for years. It may have application in the mathematics field, but not in general education. Buzz words are just that and many people can tell when someone’s thinking goes only that deep. Let’s keep the convo going.

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