Posts Tagged ‘Neatness’

Kids Don’t Need Gold Stars

May 11, 2012

In my opinion, the look that children give when they receive a gold star is misleading. Sure, they look excited, but that excitement is sometimes relative. In truth, kids don’t need gold stars and essentially, that is not what they are after when they produce good work.

What they really want is something – anything. They want a compliment, a smile, a gesture that will make them feel better about themselves. School can be such an overwhelming place. Teachers are so good at being critical. Critical of the way students dress, sit, answer back, talk, the speed in which they work, the neatness of their handwriting etc. The gold star doesn’t just signify an achievement of sorts, it breaks the cycle of criticism and balances the ledger somewhat.

As teachers, we need to be aware that our students crave our acceptance and approval. They may superficially be doing this by trying to earn a gold star, but essentially, all they really want is a confidence boost.

I enjoyed the tips for showing recognition to students by bestselling author and confessed ‘gold star junkie’, Gretchen Rubin:

1. Be specific. Vague praise doesn’t make much of an impression.

2. Find a way to praise sincerely. It’s a rare situation where you can’t identify something that you honestly find praiseworthy. “Striking” is one of my favorite fudge adjectives.

3. Never offer praise and ask for a favor in the same conversation. It makes the praise seem like a set-up.

4. Praise process, not outcome.This particularly relevant with children. It’s more helpful to praise effort, diligence, persistence, and imagination than a grade or milestone.

5. Look for something less obvious to praise – a more obscure accomplishment or quality that a person hasn’t heard praised many times before; help people identify strengths they didn’t realize they had. Or praise a person for something that he or she does day after day, without recognition. Show that you appreciate the fact that the coffee’s always made, that the report is never late. It’s a sad fact of human nature: those who are the most reliable are the most easily taken for granted.

6. Don’t hesitate to praise people who get a lot of praise already. Perhaps counter-intuitively, even people who get constant praise – or perhaps especially people who get constant praise – crave praise. Is this because praiseworthy people are often insecure? Does getting praise lead to an addiction to more praise? Or – and this is my current hypothesis – does constant praise indicate constant evaluation, and constant evaluation leads to a craving for praise?

7. Praise people behind their backs. The praised person usually hears about the praise, and behind-the-back praise seems more sincere than face-to-face praise. Also, always pass along the behind-the-back praise that you hear. This is one of my favorite things to do!

The Loss of Common Sense in Education

May 6, 2012

Teacher Kathy Kenney-Marshall mourns the lack of common sense in education and shares some stories which highlight the double standards of some parents:

Lately though, one particular sentence repeats itself in my head when I read my school email. The line says, “Common Sense took a turn for the worse when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.”

I find this to be all too common as my teaching career marks nearly a quarter of a century. This includes, but is not limited to, expecting that kids do their homework.

Recently for example a parent was incensed when her child was not given a sticker on a homework assignment that was not completed according to directions! A sticker!!

It happened every once in a while when I was newer to the profession; a child on the verge of permanent punishment made up a story to “get me in trouble”: “MOM! The teacher is making me write every spelling word from the whole year 5,000 times each and it’s May!” “MOM! She’s making me write a 17-page paper on the 17 countries in West Africa…by TOMORROW!”

Most of the time the parents of these embellishment makers, will write a note asking why I am torturing children, but for the most part, I get a very nice call or note letting me know about the tall tales that are coming home to deflect the attention off themselves and whatever it is they have or haven’t done, and onto me, the evil teacher in room B29.

But, as I spend more and more time in the classroom, I find myself addressing situations that make me believe that Common Sense is, if not dead, rushing out the doors of many homes. Not too long ago, I had a parent call me to say that she was having trouble putting her child to bed. She asked what I could do to help her. I thought perhaps she dialed the wrong number and really meant to call the pediatrician. But sadly, I was mistaken.

She literally asked me if I could come to her home to help her put her unruly-at-home son to bed because I didn’t seem to have trouble with him at school.

Another day, I received a phone call from a distraught mother whose child was new to our school. She was upset because her very bright daughter wrote a very messy essay and reported, “Mrs. KKM said to do it this way.”

The mother berated me for forcing her child to do a bad job. It didn’t take long to figure out the confusion; I asked the children to do a rough draft, but since they are only 8, and I like to rhyme, I call it a “sloppy copy” and apparently I failed to explain the term properly to an appropriately literal third- grader. The mother and I had a laugh and so did the student the next day.One of my favorites of late was a parent of a child who transferred from a very religious private school. The parent called to inquire about a discussion that her son relayed to her from the day. The conversation went something like this:

Parent: “Are you teaching about the family in school?”

Me: “No, there is a family/community unit in first grade, but not in third.”

P: “Well are you teaching about alternative lifestyles?” (Now I was interested)

M: “Hmm….no. I can’t figure out where you’re going with this, why do you ask?”

P: “Mrs. Kenney-Marshall! We are a very conservative and religious family! Are you teaching homosexuality?!” (I almost choked on my water.)

What I wanted to say and almost did, but MY Common Sense took over just in time, “No, Ma’am, that’s not until fourth grade.” After a few more questions from me, I realized what she was talking about; in math class, I had talked about how certain numbers are related. For example; 4, 3, and 12 are related in multiplication and division. She was immensely relieved, but as I hung up the phone, I shook my head and found myself missing my good friend Common Sense who had apparently vacated her home that day.


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