Sunday, October 09, 2011
Complementing others and providing positive feedback is a favorite daily task of mine. It is not altruistic, I feel good when I see an individual see the good in themselves, whether it large or small.
I was reminded of this good feeling recently when I complemented a quiet girl in the classroom I worked in last week. This girl was an average looking 8th grader, modestly dressed in her school uniform, no makeup, no fancy jewelry or trendy hairstyle. While the majority of the class took extra time to socialize, rather than open their novels, this girl sat quietly reading before even asked to begin.
As I walked through the aisles of traditionally arranged classroom desks, taking attendance, her smile and raised head caught my eye. "Good afternoon, you have stunning eyes, your eyelashes are so naturally long and beautiful!" I could have complimented her on her appropriate classroom behavior and courteous demeanor but it was her eyelashes that caught my eye. I did appreciate how well behaved she was, especially in the presence of a guest teacher, but I like my complements to be natural and not forced. This was my first thought when she looked up at me and so I shared it with her.
The school day continued and so did my positive feedback to students, I left names and specific examples of good, not bad behavior for the classroom teacher. I complemented the whole class on taking on Ayn Rand's novel Anthem, a challenging but thought provoking author. I thanked the students for welcoming me into their classroom, as it was their's not mine and I was grateful to be their guest teacher for the day.
As educators and parents it is not always easy to focus on the positive. A hard day at work, a child exhibiting challenging behaviors, the frustration when a child asks you how or why after the 5th time you have explained yourself. We are all human, it is not always easy but it is necessary to provide positive feedback and encourage students to focus on the positive. Help students to use their strengths to offset their challenges.
Minutes before the final bell rang I again thanked all the students. As they filtered out of the classroom I offered my hand to shake the hands of students who were extra gracious. I wrote a quick summary of the day to the classroom teacher, including what was covered, which students worked diligently, and specifically who were respectful. I am hopeful these students will keep my positive feedback with them and remember it next time they have a guest teacher. I believe they will hold this with them far longer than they would if I had written their names on the board for being tardy or raised my voice for them to listen when reading Anthem together.