Don’t Be a Mediocre Teacher by @RichardJARogers

The ‘respect’ factor

Unfortunately, many of us in the teaching profession have been conditioned to dish out praise all day long for the most minuscule of things. A kid hands in a complete dog’s dinner of a homework and it’s “Well done for handing this in on time. Meeting deadlines is important”. 

I could go on with the spectrum of ‘non-confrontational’, politically correct garbage that I was conditioned to spew for another 1000 words, but I think that would be tedious.

I used to be one of those ‘praise everything’ teachers. Guess what I found out:

  • Praise only works when it is sincere
  • Praise only works when it recognises significant, meaningful achievements that have taken some work to accomplish
  • Praise is extra effective when preceded (NOT followed by) points for improvement

And guess what else I’ve found out – students respect us more when we are honest. They respect us when we tell them that they need to improve. They respect us when we are vigilant.

Explaining

Lots of research supports these findings. Here are two good examples:

  • A 2016 summary by Vanderbilt University found that praise works well when it is behaviour-specific and that a ratio of 4 praise statements to one reprimand works well for improving performance (if 4 praise statements are available for the work being assessed). Here are some examples of language changes we can make to turn praise into a kind of ‘disguised reprimand’ or ‘behavior enforcer”:
BSP Vanderbilt
Behaviour Specific Praise. Courtesy of Vanderbilt University, 2016. See the publication entitled ‘Behavior Specific Praise in the Classroom’. Tennessee Behavior Supports Project.

Whilst this table is useful, I think it’s important to remember that reprimands must be specific and direct. “We don’t take other people’s property, because that causes suffering to another person. When you’re older, you can also get into big trouble with the police for that. You’ll need to write a letter of apology to Simon for what you did.”

  • 2015 blog post by Brian Gatens at the University of Portland made the point that when teachers show honesty and compassion, they build trust with their students. Compassion doesn’t mean making kids feel good all the time – it means letting them know when they’ve underperformed, and caring enough to do something about it! It also involves celebrating and recognising significant progress, performance and attainment.

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About Richard Rogers 64 Articles
Richard James Rogers received both his bachelor's degree and his PGCE from Bangor University (Wales, UK). This was an excellent foundation for the steep learning curve that would follow as he pursued his career as a teacher of Science and Mathematics at UK state schools, and afterwards at elite international schools in Asia. His 14 years of full time teaching experience have seen him instruct IGCSE German, KS3 and 4 Science and Mathematics and three subjects at 'advanced level': Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. He also went on to lead a team of students to win the Thailand Tournament of Minds Championship in 2012 and has been an active educational blogger, columnist and online pedagogical content editor since 2010. His debut book: 'The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know', was rated 9.5 out of 10 in a recent UKEdChat book review, and offers an overview of what, in his experience and research, works best when it comes to engaging your learners and being happy in your job as a high school teacher.

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