One night while I was trying to unwind and relax with my friends, I decided to repeat one of my favorite phrases from the movie Babe. “Baa-ram-ewe, sheep be true” needless to say laughs ensued and other funny movie quotes were thrown out there. One of them being “E.T phone home” in the classic E.T voice. This comedic exchange between my friends and I got me thinking, the E.T quote in particular got me thinking – If I were E.T how would I have phoned home?
I am the son of two deaf parents. Calling, or as E.T would say phoning, home has never really been an option for me. Thanks to technology there are wonderful ways that I can stay in communication with my family (Skype is a wonderful way for anyone to communicate with home). Yet this idea had me going in two directions, 1) our word choices are extremely powerful when relaying messages and 2) there are so many invisible aspects that may make up our students that we would never know unless they told us. How then do we serve our students? How do we serve a student population we have never worked with, who we have never learned a theory for, or don’t even really know are on our campus?
For me coming to college was eye-opening, it was the first time in my life that not everyone in town knew me as, “Ryan, he has deaf parents”, it was something that I had to disclose to people. Of course I shared, it’s a part of who I am, a part of what makes me, me! Now that I am in a Higher Ed/Student Affairs masters program and learning about theories for various student populations, I reflect back to my own development and am curious how much of my background affected my development. I had a great experience in my undergrad, and my mentors, advisors, and supervisors were able to help me exactly the way I needed, but I’m just one person – I wonder if there are other students like me and if we as a collective population have some special needs. This has had me thinking lately, what can we do to help those hidden populations of students? How can we bring awareness to them?
Our field places a huge focus on word choice and being sensitive to those words that may be offensive to populations. We have created buzzwords. Realizing that when I heard “E.T phone home” I immediately thought of the fact that I could not “phone” home in the traditional sense. I of course laughed that this is where my thoughts went because it is not a sad situation nor is it a difficult situation for me. Yet it highlighted the power of words. One simple word can influence thoughts, emotions, and actions. How then can we educate our students on the power of words? My opinion and philosophy is to correct them when appropriate, kindly explain to them how those words are impactful, and to be proactive and have the conversations that lead students to realize that what they say carries power. How do you educate your students on the power of words?
Ryan Bye is a graduate hall coordinator at Texas Tech University.