The other day I went to hot yoga (where they heat the room to over 100°!) with a favorite instructor. One of the things I like about him is that he learns everyone’s name in the class by making a little cheat sheet as they sign in. During class, he gives feedback using your name. Some people might cringe with this explicit recognition, but when you’re ready to pass out from heat exhaustion and your muscles start to falter, hearing your name somehow helps.
He also gives everyone in the room praise at least once, if not more. I realize I’m in a hippie-feel-good-yoga room, but how does he do this when there are thirty people in the class? I don’t know why his instruction hit me more than usual the other day; maybe because I’ve slowly lost all patience at school, and I realize I hardly take the time to praise my students.
It’s not that I never praise kids; I do. I write positive things on papers, and sign their positive behavior cards (a reward system at our school), and I make encouraging comments throughout class, yet I rarely make a comment of praise to each and every student. How difficult would it be to use their name with a unique, specific praise during each and every class period? Would I really be able to do that in each class period? It seems silly that I work with a lot of students who struggle with school, rarely earn proficient, hardly ever earn “good” grades, and then I don’t make a conscious effort to praise each and every one of them everyday!!
One of the challenges with praise is that it needs to be specific and sincere, otherwise, it’s just fluff and the students know. And as I said, many of my students really struggle with learning, so there’s not always the obvious opportunity to praise. But I know I’m missing some opportunities, too.
There’s not much time during this school year, but I now have a mission to try to praise each student in each class at least once. It will be the perfect experiment before I say good-bye to another group.
Who do you need to praise?