"Talk Matters" Workshops and Professional Development

Talk Matters workshops are dynamic and interactive opportunities for the professionals in any setting to reflect carefully on the everyday language that is used to describe the characteristics, abilities, and potential of children.
Three broad areas of focus during workshops are use of deficit terminology, labels that emerge from tracking and classification of students, and protection of student and family confidentiality. I shape each presentation after careful consultation with the institution so the workshop or professional development will lead to beneficial changes that are ultimately reflected in a code of ethics.


Why is "talk" Important?

The talk of educators and others who serve children frequently reflects the social and cultural constructions of human differences in the larger society. Even the most dedicated professionals may possibly be in the habit of describing some children in ways that denigrate them and have a harmful negative impact on their lives. Educators are never “just talking” – linguists argue that talk is an action that makes things happen and keep happening in certain ways.

The everyday talk of educators creates what we call the language environment of schools and institutions. Many insights can be gained from taking the time to think about your institutional language environment and the ways it might be strengthened and improved. Even the most casual talk among professionals must be taken seriously; if what is said could possibly be of ultimate harm to a child, it poses ethical concerns.

Reflection on the ethics of a language environment is much more than “political correctness” or “trying to say nice things.” Reflection rather requires us to first deconstruct what we habitually say to understand how social forces of racism, classism, or discrimination in any form may be affecting us. Then, reflection helps us to discuss problems or challenges in ways that honor the dignity of children and families and lead to positive interventions. It is possible for every educational setting to make a deliberate change in how professionals talk about student categorizations and expectations – a powerful change for the better! 

Examples of problematic "talk" with a negative impact on student outcomes and the quality of an institutional language environment:

Poor children start school behind their privileged peers and never catch up.

Children who attend our school have families that don’t care about education.

This transitional group scored the lowest on kindergarten entry tests.

Children from public housing drag our achievement scores way down.

The special education kids interfere with the progress of the smart kids.

Workshop Options Include:

One-hour interactive overview of the importance and impact of “institutional talk.”

Two or three hour interactive overview, reflection on the language environment of the institution, and initial steps toward creation of a code of ethics.

Follow-up workshops focused on completion of a code of ethics for the institution.

Contact Me

You are invited to contact me for further information about the ways in which my workshops can benefit your school, program, or organization.  I am happy to discuss flexibility in terms of time, topics, and individualized approaches that will best serve the needs and interests of your institution.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash