Language is perception, not to mention imperfection. It packs symbolic power to capture specifics even as its connotations make its meaning sometimes slippery, elusive, or imprecise. Language use is also a habit.
Those abstracts thoughts circled through my brain as I walked to catch this morning's bus. I was reflecting about recent difficult conversations having to do with students' course placements for next school year. That process is underway currently, and one particular quirk of language has come up often. Most offerings where I teach are divided into two levels: standard and honors. That leads to habitual use of phrases like "moving a student up" when we recommend placing a student who has been in a standard class into an honors one. When we recommend moving a student from honors to standard, we often say we are "moving the student down." That's come into focus for me as a language problem for us and our community -- not merely as an issue with semantics, though, but with perceived realities our word choices have created.
An article from Choice Literacy I read this morning crystallized that thinking, sparking me to wonder how small changes in our choice words (hat tip, Peter Johnston) may hold farther reaching power than we realize.