The Impact of Words

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue; And those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21

As an educator of 20+ years, I have experienced the impact of words on both myself and my students. Although I may not have always been cognizant of this impact, I was aware enough to decide early on in my teaching to learn the first and last names of each student in my classes. I knew from my own experience as a student how it made me feel to be seen and known.

Fast forward a few years in my teaching when I met Dr. George Lebo through Faculty Commons. In a casual conversation regarding how my classes were going, he asked me if I prayed for my students. That simple question transformed me and, ultimately, my students. It unlocked the door between “being seen and known” and “being prayed for and loved.”

Heeding George’s prompting to be intentional about praying for my students, I resolved that day to pray for them by name before the semester began and before each class. I also endeavored to speak kindly and encourage them during office/advising hours. To help guard my mouth, it has become my habit to invite the Holy Spirit into my teaching, my classroom, and my office hours.

I am discovering that praying for my students has softened my heart toward them. It has made me more willing to go the extra mile to help them understand their classwork or to take the time to write a thoughtful reference for them.

I am also learning that prayer makes me so much more aware of the spiritual opportunities around me. One day, I noticed one of my students sitting dejectedly on campus. I stopped to ask if she was okay, and she dumped everything on me. I would not have been inclined to have a spiritual conversation with this student had I not just spent time praying for her.

As students get to know me, they find out that I pray for them. That has made it easier for some students to come to me to share where they are struggling or need counsel, encouragement, or other forms of help. They often end our times by requesting that I speak a prayer of blessing over them.

During the past two school years, prior to classes starting each semester, I have invited my Christian grad assistants to pray with me in each classroom where we will teach. I believe there’s strength in numbers. Together, we were able to offer words of comfort to a student we found crying (because of a break-up) at the end of class one day.

Mostly, I don’t know the outcome for each student who has sat in my classroom over the years. However, I do reconnect with some as they share their life updates. I hope that amidst the many words that fill up my lectures, some of my words will bear fruit, either heavenward in the form of prayers or outwards, so students feel seen, known, valued, and loved.

Kate H. Fletcher

Family, Youth and Community Sciences

University of Florida

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