A Candle of Inspiration...
If you say you CAN'T, it means you WON'T
on the Teachers.Net Chatboard
Twenty years ago my hubby was teaching middle school PE and coaching. He had a wild kid in class - a spunky, feisty young girl who I'll call "Jennie" (not her real name). He really liked her then and saw potential in her (as we all do with "our" kids!!)
Now she is married with 5 children, the oldest attending our school. I had reason to call her tonight. She told me that my hubby said something one day 20 yrs ago that she has never forgotten and tells HER children each day. She says it meant so much to her and "guided" her in life. To us it may not be a big deal, but to her it obviously had an impact:
"If you say you CAN'T, it means you WON'T."
(My apologies if that's a real quote from someone else).
SO...for those of you who might be discouraged for any reason...remember that YOU do make a difference each day in the lives of kids.
I can't wait to tell my hubby ...
Praise vs. Encouragement
by Kathleen Fedele
on the Early Childhood Mailring
This posting is not meant to raise the tension anymore, but I wanted to share my view on this subject.
When talking about praise vs. encouragement, they must first be defined and understood.
Praise is conditional based upon a behavior and given based upon the praiser's judgment. Praise teaches children how to manipulate their environment - either to receive praise or to avoid it. Some children don't like praise or the attention it brings to them. Praise is usually given because as adults we feel the need to acknowledge some behavior rather than an personal/intrinsic success of some sort. As adults I think we do not understand that what is truly important for children is the completion of a task independent of us. Praise not only feeds the child's "need to please" but helps us feel that we are part of their success. This only diminishes the child's success.
Words of praise:
"I like the way you're sitting."
"You picture is pretty."
As for encouragement, although there is a fine line of distinction, it is an important one. Encouragement only acknowledges accomplishment or the capability of the child. It appreciates the effort regardless of the task or behavior and places all ownership on the child. Often as teachers, we use too many words and not enough silence. Children often reflect on their own work and are satisfied and proud of their accomplishment. For a child this may be a private experience. They are building their autonomy as a person and this should not be decreased by our words. Encouragement can also be us repeating back to the child what they have said about their work. This helps the child hear what they have said about their own work...this can be very powerful in building a child's self-esteem and confidence.
Words of encouragement:
"You used details in your drawing."
"I see that you worked a long time on that."
"Look at what you did."
"What do you think?"
Maybe it is difficult to see the difference and it took me a long time to digest all the reading and observations I have made. One thing I do know is that children do not need (or want) praise from us as long as they feel they are independent, successful and thinking individuals. Praise does not build self-esteem or confidence. The only thing that does that is children experiencing success in their work. It's our job to set up those experiences for them in order to gain that experience. The difference between the two is that praise is a judgment from the outside and encouragement is a judgment from the inside. Praise is our interpretation, encouragement is putting it back in the child's lap as far as evaluating or appreciating what they have accomplished.
Several years ago Oprah had Alfie Kohn on her program and did a mini-test to see if Alfie's theory and research held up. The children were going to be asked to put together a new puzzle that a toy company had just developed. One group would be paid (praise) and the other group would be asked to just help out (encouragement). The children were timed to see how long they persisted at the puzzle. The group that was paid made a couple attempts at the puzzle while the group that was not persisted 2x as long and longer. The underlying belief of the children was "if I'm being paid (or praised/rewarded) then this activity must be too difficult or not fun enough." The other group without the praise persisted at the puzzle because they thought it must be fun. This was evidenced by the interview with the children after the test. Praise is really just bribing kids to do something. It's just like the idea that you can't have ice cream until you eat your veggies. "If I can't have ice cream (the bribe) until I eat my veggies (then the veggies must be yucky)."
The indirect effects of praise is that other children who may be working just as hard or harder (relatively speaking) of the child being praised is not recognized and therefore punished. If we truly believe that children develop at their own rate, then that child is working hard and just as worthy of acknowledgement. When we say to Mary that we like the way she's sitting not only are we saying that we don't expect her to sit independently, but we are also saying that we don't like the way Johnny is sitting next to her. Often praise is used to manipulate and pit students against each as well as lowering our own standards of what we expect of children.
Forgive my length on this post. I am anticipating (and welcoming) some lively discussion from it.