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5 Phrases To Cease Utilizing as a Instructor



I nonetheless keep in mind a day in first grade once I gave one other woman at my desk an eraser. I mentioned she may preserve it, solely to determine that I truly wished it again for myself. Once I requested for it, my trainer admonished me. 

“Don’t be an Indian giver!”

Reflecting on that incident in center college, I regarded up the story behind the phrase and browse that Indians had been typically “difficult” of their dealings with the US. There was no historic context, no understanding of how the phrase might come from racist origins or that it was truly Native individuals who had suffered from unjust and unfulfilled agreements. So, all I had was the perpetuated stereotype about Native those that I believed till I used to be a excessive schooler. As a trainer, once I heard my college students use the time period, I gently corrected them and defined its origin.

We all know that phrases have energy and the tales that our phrases come from can both uplift or hurt. Whereas the usage of sure phrases could also be unintentional, it’s essential to recollect how our influence typically issues greater than our intent. With that in thoughts, listed here are 5 extra phrases which might be extra dangerous than we might understand, and the way we will substitute them. 

1. Tribe

Until you might be speaking about an precise Indigenous or Native tribe who makes use of that phrase to explain themselves, this time period typically evokes quite a lot of beliefs which might be incorrect or unfaithful. As Chris Lowe says in a 2001 situation of Studying for Justice, “the time period “tribe” has no constant which means. It carries deceptive historic and cultural assumptions.”

After we consider a tribe, we regularly affiliate it with both Native or African folks, and it tends to evoke some sort of deep, religious reference to others. As Lowe notes, “To be in a tribal state is to dwell in an uncomplicated, conventional situation.” Nonetheless, these perceptions are inclined to flatten and ignore the multifaceted experiences and social bonds amongst many sorts of Native and African folks. Moreover, the time period has additionally been used as a colonial one to simplify the relationships and cultures of Native and African folks, typically associated to their “savagery.” 

Utilizing the time period in our classroom to explain teams of mates or friends each strips it of its which means to explain precise Indigenous tribes and ignores the violent historical past inside the phrase as properly. As an alternative, we will simply say, “group.” If you wish to have a enjoyable theme, you can also make a “society” or perhaps a “guild,” if you wish to get your fantasy world getting into your classroom. 

2. Lowest on the Totem Pole

Firstly, this phrase, typically used to imply “the particular person of least significance,” doesn’t truly make sense while you find out about totem poles, which fluctuate in fashion and which means between the completely different tribes who use them. They’re typically various of their order, with some having no which means connected to some truly putting significance on the figures towards the underside. So, utilizing this phrase with our college students already perpetuates inaccurate details about what totem poles signify.

Utilizing this time period additional strips totem poles of their true and essential which means to Indigenous folks, which has “primarily robbed First Nation totem poles of their which means by taking them, utilizing their picture and speaking about them, out of their cultural contexts,” in accordance with  Dr. Robin R. R. Grey (Ts’msyen/Cree), an assistant professor on the College of Toronto. Totem poles are essential and highly effective symbols to the tribes who create them, and simplifying them and taking away that significance is dangerous to these cultures.

As an alternative, we will simply say, “lowest on the ladder” or “lowest significance.”

3. Gyp

This time period, typically used to imply “cheated” or “swindled,” truly comes from racist beliefs in regards to the Roma or Romani folks, a nomadic ethnic group discovered principally in Europe. As a result of they had been initially considered from Egypt, they had been typically known as “gypsies.” Their nomadic life-style and concentrate on commerce work (versus “secure” jobs) created stereotypes that they had been untrustworthy or thieves. Whereas it might appear innocuous, this time period truly continues to perpetuate these concepts a couple of group of people who find themselves already marginalized.

Given the connotation behind this phrase, being actually clear with our language is essential. We are able to merely say we had been “cheated” or “lied to” as an alternative of associating the motion with a selected group or thought. 

4. Cakewalk

Since a “cakewalk” was truly extremely elaborate and troublesome to carry out, this phrase can also be rooted in historic inaccuracy. This time period truly derives from a dance created and carried out by enslaved folks on plantations for his or her enslavers. The dances had been truly meant to mock their enslavers, who typically missed the purpose (a lot to the amusement of these dancing it). Its roots truly come from a type of delicate, suave Black resistance.

The time period didn’t come to imply “one thing straightforward to do” till the 1860s, after which it probably comes from mocking the dances in minstrel exhibits. Utilizing it now signifies that we’re not solely passing alongside factually incorrect data (that “cakewalks” had been straightforward), but additionally stripping it of its essential historic context and which means. 

As an alternative, you’ll be able to say that one thing was “a breeze.”

5. Powwow

Powwows are precise, essential celebrations of Native artwork, dance, music, and communal gathering. They’re additionally typically extremely elaborate and maintain nice cultural which means to the Nation or tribe collaborating within the powwow.

So, except we’re utilizing the time period to explain an precise powwow, utilizing it as a solution to describe a fast and straightforward assembly we wish to have is, once more, inaccurate, as powwows are removed from fast or easy to placed on. Moreover, it strips the time period of its cultural context and which means, which is especially dangerous to teams of people that have been robbed of their tradition and land time and time once more.

As an alternative, we will simply say a fast “huddle” or “meetup.” 


It’s arduous to vary the best way we converse and, for a few of us, it might really feel like an excessive amount of work to rethink phrases we generally use. 

But, we all know that the phrases we are saying as lecturers matter to our college students. Whereas it doesn’t at all times seem to be it, lots of them will carry the phrases we are saying in our school rooms into their grownup lives. Whereas these phrases and phrases could seem frequent now, we will mannequin the flexibility to study and alter our actions as soon as we perceive the complete story of a scenario.

We owe it to our college students to make use of language that’s inclusive and factually right in order that we will put together them to enter into their future as conscientious members of society. 

What phrases have you ever stopped utilizing as a trainer? Tell us within the feedback.

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