One of my friends and a past MLC staffer graduated from her PhD yesterday (congratulations Jo!). One of my strongest memories of Jo is when she told me something about my teaching that I never knew I was doing, but that she saw as an essential part of what I was trying to achieve at the MLC. That’s what I want to share with you today.

Jo noticed that there was a particular word I used rather often when working with students in the MLC. It was only a small word, but it was able to make a difference to the way students felt about our interactions.

The word was “Let’s”.

Very often, we tell students to do things that will help them learn, but usually those instructions come out as commands: “Find the definition in your notes”, “Read the original assignment instructions”, “Have a go at this first part of the question”, “Look at this handout”.

Many of the students who come to the MLC are in a fairly heightened state of stress; some of them really feel embarrassed that they had to ask for help; at least a few are just waiting for an excuse to pack up and run if they feel threatened. These students need reassurance that we really are committed to helping them today — that we’re willing to stick with them until they get it.

It turns out you can let them know you want to stick with them by simply adding a “let’s” to the front of your commands: “Let’s find the definition in your notes”, “Let’s read the original assignment instructions”, “Let’s have a go at this first part of the question”, “Let’s look at this handout”.

It’s amazing how one simple word (and the attitude that goes with it) can make such a huge difference to the experience a student can have of learning today.

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