Praise Students Constantly

In his bestselling book, How Full Is Your Bucket?, American businessman and author Tom Rath writes that based on a Gallup Organization survey of 4 million workers in over 10,000 companies worldwide, employees crave one type of remuneration more than any other: Praise. Rath also notes that according to the United States Department of Labor, the primary reason that good employees quit their jobs is lack of appreciation by management. In other words, millions of adults yearn so deeply for praise they'll change jobs if necessary, in the hope that they might get some professional recognition in a new setting.

Control your urge to buy mass quantities of stickers, candy, etc., as rewards for students who exhibit proper behavior. You don't necessarily have to believe the experts, who say that motivation should always be from the heart, but you do need to safeguard your precious money and not bankrupt yourself purchasing too many expensive goodies.

And just like adults, kids need praise, too. The liberal use of praise in the classroom can often achieve seemingly magical results, including the following:

  • Getting kids to work harder and more efficiently

  • Helping kids to interact more positively with their peers

  • Raising kids' innate self-esteem

  • Convincing kids to remain more loyal to your academic program and to you

  • Enabling kids to achieve better academic grades and citizenship grades

  • You can find 1,000 opportunities to praise kids during the instructional day, if you just keep an open mind. Negative reprimands are sometimes required, but focus as much as possible on all the positive things you can say and do for your students.

  • When you praise, let it come from your heart so you sound sincere. Say something brief and compassionate, such as, “That's absolutely right, Juan; excellent work.”

  • Any time and every time a student says something correct, no matter how small, praise her: “That's the correct answer, Tasha. You are so smart!”

  • Praise students for trying, even if they give an incorrect answer. Say, “Not quite, Ricky. But you'll get it next time.” You're trying to encourage all your students to take a chance and raise their hands. If the really shy ones fear condemnation, they'll remain silent all year. Don't say, “Mike, do you everpay attention? My cat could've given a better answer than that!” Mike might clam up for the next nine months after such a cutting remark. Instead, try, “Mike, take a look at your notes again” or, “Mike, remember when we discussed linking verbs?” Encourage your students to keep trying.

  • Briefly praise every student at least once each day. You'll have to be creative and really stretch it for some students, saying things like, “Ann, you can be so wonderfully polite and respectful — I'm a bit surprised at your behavior today.” Find something to praise, especially where the challenging students are concerned. Say, “Lisa, I'm really pleased with the way you walked into the class today — you were so quiet and courteous.” See if Lisa doesn't grin from ear to ear.

  • You never need to praise misbehavior or utter compliments you don't believe, but you do need to seek out positive behavior and reinforce it.

    Finally, think of how much you crave praise. Aren't you hoping for a bit of positive reinforcement from your principal a few times each year? Admit it; you're just waiting to hear, “That was a wonderfullesson!” from an administrator or a colleague. And of course, the best praise of all comes from a straight-talking little kid: “I usually hate long division, but you're the first person to explain it so I can understand it!” Just as you enjoy praise, other human beings enjoy it, too. Go ahead and praise your students as much as you like. Praise is exactly like good manners — it costs you nothing and brings you everything.

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