Recognize good performance as well as bad

April 29, 2009 | Assessment, Motivating students | RSS 2.0

In my teaching career, there have been times when I’ve been so focused on correcting poor performance or behavior that I have missed recognizing those who do well.

If you make a minor screw-up in the military, you’ll probably get a counseling statement rather than a formal letter of reprimand.  It’s for things like missing a formation, failing a PT test, etc.  But at PLDC (a.k.a. sergeants’ school) we were taught that you need to counsel good performance as well as bad.  Formally recognizing a job well done encourages more good work in the future.

We need to make sure that we applaud and recognize our kids when they do well, especially for the kids who drive us nuts.  I recall a case of a young lady who regularly drove me nuts in class with her behavior.  She got a B on her end-of-term project, so I called home to let dad know and encourage her to keep it up.  She came in the next day and said “Mr. W – I don’t know what you said to my dad but he gave me the biggest hug after school yesterday…”  It wasn’t a cure all, but it helped let her know that I wasn’t the enemy.

Similarly, if a paper is important enough to grade, it’s important enough to comment on.  For most kids a number grade by itself is not much of a motivating factor; if a kid scores a 75% on a test, give a little message like “let’s work together after school to get an 85 next time!”  In the long run it will have more impact.

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