Today, I’m sliding into your inbox like a student with a last-minute assignment.

Heyyyy Advocates!


I missed you all! I am traveling a bit, this summer, and truly taking some time to reintroduce myself to me. Therefore, the content is a bit delayed. The only way to reset, sometimes, is to disconnect so that you can come back and the main thing is the main thing. Having limited internet access also helps! I hope that you find the time to show up for yourself, during this summer. You deserve moments of peace, joy, and self-discovery. If there is no opportunity available for you to take, then create the opportunity to recharge, reflect, and prioritize your well-being. Remember, your self-care is not just a luxury, but a necessity. Embrace the chance to nurture your spirit and come back renewed and ready to tackle whatever comes your way.


Now that I’ve given you my hope, let’s get to it. 


Today, I’m sliding into your inbox like a student with a last-minute assignment. We love all of our students, but we love our procrastinators real hard, don’t we?? Our students, who submit their assignments on a time release, help us grow in patience and grace, and we could all use growth in those areas. So, one time for the procrastinators. They don’t get enough credit for making us who we are as educators and humans. 


Speaking of loving hard, my husband and I have been participating in a book study with a group of friends, and we’ve been discussing our love languages using “The Five Love Languages” book and workbook by author Gary Chapman. It has been such a wonderful experience. I’ve learned a lot about my friends, my spouse, and myself and how to offer them a deeper and richer connection by recognizing and honoring their love languages. I always thought I was an “Acts of Service” love language type of woman. However, from our conversations, I discovered that, depending on the person and the scenario, I can actually thrive off various love languages and even engage with multiple love languages simultaneously. 

One of my love languages is “Words of Affirmation.” Now, before the book study, I would have said that I am, without question, a “Don’t tell me. Show me.” person. I turn into Missouri real quick. I need actions and words to align. Since the book study, I’ve learned that, though I still want actions and words to align, I am very grateful for the positive assertions and the profound and significant statements of empowerment, belief, and acknowledgment I receive from others. I go through a lot of…stuff, as a Black woman. Words of affirmation serve as a powerful counterbalance to all of the societal challenges and systemic racism and biases that I encounter daily. Yes, Advocates, imagine that you just wake up and “Boom”, you are face-to-face with some of the same old, same old raggedy, drawn out, worn out, played out microaggression, stereotypes, biases, injustices, complexities, etc. 

It. Is. Tiring. 

Emotionally and Physically. Before the book study, I appreciated words of affirmation, but I didn’t know how important they were to me and how necessary they have been in forming my resilience, boundary-setting, and go-after-it-all-and-don’t-forget-who-you-are attitude. I realize that affirming words provide me with emotional support, help bolster my self-esteem, and allow me to navigate my identity and my experiences. In other words, words of affirmation fill my cup so that I can fill the cups of others. 

While we may not know the love languages of our students, if words of affirmation allow me to get through the multiple layers and challenges of adulthood, imagine how words of affirmation can serve as an essential countermeasure to harmful influences that undermine students' self-worth and confidence. Acknowledging our students' intelligence, strength, beauty, and abilities allows us to help dismantle internalized negativity that can be birthed by stereotypes and biases. In environments where students are underrepresented or undervalued, positive affirmations can remind them of their worth and potential, foster their mental and emotional well-being, strengthen community and solidarity, and encourage them to be authentic and express themselves without fear of failure or judgment.


Furthermore, students who hear affirming words are more likely to develop a growth mindset, display resilience and perseverance, and demonstrate a deep desire for learning. Students who hear other students being affirmed may be more likely to collaborate and help build a positive and respectful classroom environment.


Far too often, we are asked to do something, but we are not told how to do the something we are being asked to do. It's easy to say, "Affirm your students," but what if that is not your love language or what if you've never been affirmed, so affirming others is not easy for you to successfully implement? Therefore, I want to share some simple words of affirmation that will work with all students.

  • Words of affirmation that can be shared with students who are underrepresented or who may feel undervalued:
    • "You are capable and deserving of success."
    • "Your voice and perspective are important."
    • "You've made so much great progress in your math skills. I noticed a few areas where we can improve, and I know you can tackle these challenges."
  • Words of affirmation for students who are experiencing intersectional challenges that take a toll on their mental and emotional health:
    • "You are loved and supported."
    • "Your feelings and experiences are valid."
  • Words of affirmation for students who need to feel a sense of community, belonging, and solidarity:
    • "We rise together."
    • "Your success is my success."
    • "I can see how much effort you put into this assignment, and I'm really impressed with your dedication."
    • Encourage peer affirmations, by implementing "compliment circles" or "peer shout-outs". 
  • Words of affirmation that help students feel safe embracing their authenticity, honoring their culture, or expressing themselves fully:
    • "Your identity is beautiful and powerful."
    • "Be unapologetically yourself."
    • "You have a real talent for storytelling. Your creativity shines through in your writing."

Your next question may be, "When do I use these words of affirmation?" I can tell you that you will know exactly when these statements will be needed, IF you are paying attention to the verbal and non-verbal communication you are receiving from your students. Some students need words of affirmation daily. Other students may thrive off words of affirmation on an "as needed" basis. There will be times that you will miss the moment and the mark. Remember the grace and patience that we talked about earlier? Give yourself grace. Be patient with your progress. Understand the power behind these statements, move away from the biases that may hold your heart and care captive, and integrate verbal acknowledgments of the students' efforts, achievements, and inherent worth. 


Stack hands with me, Advocates, if you agree that words of affirmation:

  • Are powerful tools in the hands of educators.
  • Can create the change that you wish to see in education.
  • Have the potential to transform mindsets and enhance the learning experience.
  • Fosters positive, inclusive, and motivating relationships.
  • Can help nurture resilience, self-love, and a whole bunch of philomaths.
  • Can simply make all the difference in this world. 


My ask is simple. Share your favorite words of affirmation with the community. Not only are you contributing goodness, but you may just say something that makes someone's day. 


See you soon, Advocates! May you receive the affirmation that you wish to send out into this universe.


Written By: Sholanda Smith, Content Creator Leading Equity Center


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