Saturday, October 13, 2012

An Ode to Praise

The word 'praise' can be dated way back to the 12th century. The middle English, Latin and Old French versions vary slightly, but they all mean the same thing- to value, to prize. So when I praise someone, I am giving them a present- the present of boosting their self-esteem.

Most living things flourish under praise. Plants, animals - not sure about rabbits though :) and of course, human beings. I have watched how my students respond to encouraging words. Their eyes light up with pleasure and delight. Watch them the next time you praise them. Their eyelids flutter uncontrollably and an intense look of happiness flits through their eyes. Followed by the widest, hugest grin.,r:70,s:20,i:343&biw=1280&bih=681

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Adults have learnt to mask their feelings. Yet I am sure that same surge of happiness envelops them when they are praised. As a mentor to new teachers, I realize that if I want them to improve their teaching practice, praise is the answer. Critiziing and harping upon their weak points really achieves NOTHING!  They might infact learn to resent you.

Which brings me to the other side of praise...criticism. How would I criticize a teaching practice  or a student's behaviour without hurting their core or essence?

There are several ways of doing this. Mind you, it is not easy and needs plenty of practice.

1) Control your body language.

2) Smile and relax all your facial muscles.

3) Keep your voice soft and pleasant.

4) Listen to what they have to say.  Listening is one of the hardest skills we can master as most of us tend to think about our opinion as someone else is speaking.

5) Choose your words very carefully. This does require a lot of experience and regular practice. After listening to your student or mentee, paraphrase. This reduces the chance of miscommunication.

6) Give the student or mentee the chance to come up with solutions to a problem. If they are unable to do so, suggest ways and then give them the opportunity to choose what they are comforatble with.

7) Keep smiling and make sure the bond between you and the other person is stronger by the end of the meeting.

8) Always end with praise.

These strategies could help create a happy classroom and a flourishing professional community.



  1. Reflecting on your post, so true. How often do we truly praise our students or peers. As a leader I have to make it a point that I do praise my teachers for their efforts, hard work, dedication, collaboration or just being them for who they are and where they have come from. The students too. A smile often eases away any tension, sadness or hurt and makes one feel valued and appreciated. I guess you learn over the years to be a better person. One who is empathetic, just and caring.
    Beginning the professional learning communities in the school was one way of getting everyone more appreciative of each other, their skills, knowledge and understandings. It was a joy to see all the praises flowing amongst peers as they embarked on their journey of learning.
    Thanks Naini for this insipring post.

  2. Thanks for you feedback Andrea! Hope all well with you. I can imagine your kids flourishing under you:)

  3. I was very interested to read this and it reminded me of the importance of praising students and colleagues for the right things. Carol Dweck's work on growth and fixed mindsets highlights the importance of praising effort, hard work, accepting challenge, and perseverance as opposed to praising talent! Criticism needs to be given and accepted but this can only be done in a supportive environment that has been developed by the explicit building of relationships.


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