I have been thinking a great deal about the balance between encouraging positive behavior and going over the top with praise. Sometimes in my room I feel like I am gushing, and it is time for me to reflect. So here we go…
Praise. Praise is not actually what kids want or need. They want to be noticed. Lucky for us, noticing is tenfold more effective than praise. Praise carries judgment. It is the teacher placing value on something and judging it to be better than something else. And at the end of the day, no one likes being judged.
Noticing is specific. When we notice, we are calling attention to, and drawing student attention to something concrete. “I am noticing how you are sitting flat on your bottom at the carpet. When you do that, your friend behind you can see better.” In that statement, there is no overt praise. That child is not being deemed “good” or “bad.” Instead, you help them to see the features of their behavior and the immediate consequences. And what you notice, you get more of. Students want to be seen and noticed, so if you spend time noticing things you want to see, you are likely to see them more.
Which brings me to the other part of my reflection. Thank you. We should not be praising or thanking children for baseline behavior. We expect safe bodies from them. This is a basic expectation that is non negotiable. We can notice students that manage their bodies in safe ways, and use that concrete noticing to give others specific ideas on what a safe body looks like. But there is no “thank you” for it. It simply must be that way.
“Thank you” happens when a child does you a favor. I don’t actually feel like walking across the room to sharpen my pencil, and I ask a child to do it. If they do it for me, I owe them a thank you. They did a favor for me – something extra.
I find myself spending far too much time “gushing” over baseline behavior, and this is my call to myself to cut it out. I am not doing anyone any favors.
What about you? Where do you fall in the world of praise and thank you?