Learning to Converse in the Bixby Village

If your house is anything like mine, you may not always like the way your kids speak to each other or to you. But like me, you may also notice, in the time since your child started at Bixby, that his or her language usage is changing, and that it can sometimes surprise you with its civility, sophistication, and clarity of intent.

As a Bixby parent, one of the reasons I love Bixby is the way positive and appropriate language usage is consistently modeled for our kids by the Bixby teachers and staff every day, supporting what many of us are trying to teach our kids at home. How often have you overheard one of our Bixby kids say something like “I’m not sure about that, let me think for a minute” or “When you do that it makes me feel like you aren’t listening.” Have you noticed at home that your preschooler is trying out simple, but effective, phrases such as “Will you save this for me?” and “Are paints open right now?” Maybe even the constructive statement “those words are prickly and not nice.”

IMG_2698Learning to express ourselves with appropriate language is a difficult task. We all know adults, let alone children, who have not mastered this. Learning to speak civilly and clearly to each other, especially when angry or frustrated, is such a difficult task that it’s not enough for this to be modeled just some of the time and by parents alone—it takes all day, every day exposure and practice. Luckily for all of us, this is one of the many areas where Bixby excels. Over time, and with much practice, gentle reinforcement, and constant modeling, Bixby kids learn that speaking kindly and constructively to each other is the norm, not the exception. It doesn’t fully happen in one year, or even two or three. But as I watch carefully, and notice all the attentive watering, pruning, and weeding poured into the process by everyone involved, I’ve seen the blossoming occur. I recently realized the big difference Bixby’s emphasis and attention to this makes. While at a friend’s house, the host asked my son and his friend which color paper they would like for drawing. His friend immediately grabbed a piece and said “Red! Give it!” I was impressed to see my Bixby first grader say “I think I’d prefer the blue one, thanks”. It made me grateful to realize that this is how my first grader is accustomed to being spoken to, and how he thinks others deserve to be addressed in return.

It’s not easy of course. And it takes a village. At pick up last week I had the opportunity to watch language scaffolding in action as Bixby teacher Mark assisted the after school crowd in cleaning up the gym. I noticed my son telling a few other children, somewhat annoyingly, “Guys, the blocks don’t go that way! They don’t go that way!” Of course, he was ignored, as who wants to be told what to do in a tone like that? Mark came over and gently provided some much needed scaffolding, suggesting the wording “I was told the blocks should lay flat”. My son tried this language, and voila! A positive response from his friends!

We all know that the academic training our children receive during their years at Bixby lays the foundation for a lifelong love of learning. Many schools can claim excellence in academic training, but how many really teach children to communicate effectively? Imagine for a moment, how this will serve our children as they move through life. Can you picture how much more effective of a communicator your child will be as a teenager? As an employee? As a parent, friend, or partner? Of course, parents play a key role in this, but so does the village in which our children grow and learn. What do they see every day? What do they hear? I’m grateful that what my children see and hear at Bixby is consistently constructive and moves their own language development in the same positive direction we are attempting at home.

Our family feels very lucky to be a part of the Bixby village. I hope you do too. Good luck out there today, parents— and know that while you are navigating your own conversations and conflicts, the Bixby village back at 4760 Table Mesa Drive is helping our kids navigate theirs.

-Stephanie, Bixby Parent