Highkey Relationship Building

 by laura steinbrink,

Simple. Powerful. Effective.


Teaching during a pandemic presents a lot of problems for educators to face and solve daily, and clearly I haven’t solved the problem of posting regularly since the 2020-21 school year began. However, as we ended the week before the holiday break, I realized that there was something I could share that would benefit teachers both online and those teaching face to face. Something that wouldn’t be overwhelming because we already have it in our toolboxes, although it occasionally falls behind other tools and is temporarily forgotten. The tool is a reversal of our everyday role at school. It’s the teacher becomes the student and the student becomes the teacher tool, or the “Padawan / Master swap” for those like me who are Star Wars fans.


One of my students graduated early this year, and his future plans are to go to college to become a music teacher. As my weeks with him dwindled, he suddenly became convinced that I needed to learn the 2020 slang spoken by the students, and he would teach me. While still working on his content for me, he taught me a few words a day. The fact that I took notes amused him and also convinced him that I took it seriously. He then provided opportunities for me to practice the new words in context. As an educator who teaches English and also lower level Spanish classes, I fully supported his method.


We had a lot of fun doing this, and it also helped build that relationship that is very important in the classroom. Not only was I building it with the senior who was about to graduate, but as we practiced the slang on other students, it built or strengthened connections there. A funny thing also began to happen. Other students wanted to teach me slang words. I dutifully wrote them down, had the student spell them for me and define each term. My senior then approved, or not, each new word by the other students.


My son, a freshman, soon became aware of my slang lessons, and he is alternately embarrassed and amused when I use any slang words. When my daughter finally journeyed home from college to spend Christmas with us, my son made her aware of my slang lessons. I shared some of the terms I was learning, and she was very skeptical that any of these were used outside of our small community. You too might be thinking that learning slang is not a worthy endeavor or applicable outside your community, but you, like my daughter, have missed the mark. Allowing a student to share a passion with you is a great way to build a relationship, but learning that passion yourself with the student as the teacher holds even more power.


Show students that you care and are truly interested in them by having them, your students become the teacher. Your teacher. Invest your time into learning what they want to teach you. Learn from as many students as possible, and practice so that you truly learn from them. The power of this is simple. It does not take much time. Consider how you can use this tool as the 2021 school year begins. Building the relationship you have with your students is the tool that provides a solid foundation for student learning, autonomy, voice, and also the desire and inspiration to learn. Such a simple tool, yes, but one that we can all wield.


Now, for fun, here are the slang words my students have taught me so far. Keep in mind that the meanings may not exactly correspond with the Urban Dictionary or how your students may be using them. This is merely how my students, here in rural Missouri, are using them. Also, my Master (student) said that many of these can be combined, so mix and match to your hearts content.

  • cap–false, lies, fake
  • no cap–truth, for real
  • minty–perfect, awesome (like mint condition)
  • drip–cool stuff like your outfit, swag, etc.
  • sweaty–(from video gaming) over the top, too much, working too hard; a person who is way into something with intensity. Whatever the person is doing they are in the thick of it, pedal to the metal.
  • That’s a flex–bragging openly, not subtle
  • That’s highkey a flex–straight up and outright a brag
  • That’s lowkey not a flex–when one thinks they are flexing, but totally aren’t.
  • Weird flex but okay–a brag about something unusual, like a dog with 7 toes.
  • G.O.A.T./G.O.A.T.ed–Greatest of All Time (the best)
  • cash nasty–a good deed, someone did something nice for you
  • uncash nasty–Opposite of cash nasty. Someone did something not nice to or for you.
  • on jah–similar to cap, meaning truth, but stronger, like swearing it’s true.
  • hate to see it–used when a negative happens, or used sarcastically when a positive happens
  • love to see it–used when a positive happens, or used sarcastically when a negative happens.
  • aight bet–okay
  • aight g–in response to see you later, meaning okay, homie (friend, bestie)
  • g–homie, friend, bestie (use with those closest to you)
  • yeet–excited exclamation
  • cuh–dude or cuz (cousin)
  • Icy–super good or super cool
  • Fire fit–awesome drip or super good drip
  • spill the tea–Tell me the scoop or gossip
  • Go off–Kind of like “you be you” or knock yourself out, with a slightly negative connotation like you’re talking nonsense. Basically, “what you’re saying is wrong or crazy, but if you want to keep going I guess I won’t stop you.”
  • check the fit–look at my (the) outfit
  • slaps–super good (That pizza slaps!)
  • hit different–super good (That pizza hit different!)

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

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