Praise (Part 2)

I recently blogged about my realisations regarding what motivates our kids.  I had a pretty nice realisation that kids don’t need stickers and prizes in order to be motivated to learn.  Our regularly professional development meeting last week helped me realise what motivates teachers.

All classroom teachers have just finished submitting learning data to our boss.  She used this data to organise the results of our kids into graphs and we spent the morning assessing where our kids are up to, and where we need to take them next.  It was validating to hear, “You’re all doing a great job” from our principal.  I think this is the equivalent of the ‘hi-5’ that I give my students.  Like the students, we don’t need stickers or prizes to know that we are doing the right thing.  A simple, “well done” works just as well. It’s important that staff know they are on the right track, and this is one way of showing it.  People don’t need to motivated with extrinsic “stuff” like stickers, gifts or prizes.  This is a disposition that I aspire to in future positions.

For my readers who are in leadership positions, how do you praise the staff you work with?  Do you give ‘adult’ stickers (usually in the form of chocolate)? Or do you give genuine praise where it is warranted?

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5 thoughts on “Praise (Part 2)

  1. Hi Sarah

    A very interesting question. Dan Pink writes and speaks about the surprising truth about what motivates people. You can watch his TED talk here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

    Some people want open accolades, others a quiet word, yet others just want to get on with the job and don’t really care if you have noticed or not – they derive satisfaction from just doing the job.

    I’d really like to think that all teachers are intrinsically motivated. That they all want to make a difference and they all want to change the world one student at a time.

    The MeE framework that looks at student engagement can be well applied to adult engagement and motivation. Work needs to be high effective, high cognitive and high operative. People need to feel emotionally connected to what they are doing, adequately challenged and need to be able to have a go.

    Just my 2c worth.

  2. But…isn’t praise just a verbal form of a sticker? It’s still an extrinsic motivator.

    I’ve been reading a lot of Alfie Kohn lately, and he has some interesting stuff to say about lots of things, but particularly about how we’re “punished by rewards”. A lot of it really hits home with me. Here’s a bit of a starter read: http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm

  3. We all enjoy those days where a parent says’ thanks’ and when a colleague appreciates some support or effort you have personally put in. As a leader I believe that trust, morale, relationships are forged and built on mutual respect and positivity. Acknowledgement, while not needed necessarily, makes a challenging job just that little bit easier. My staff team are committed, hard working, positive individuals who together are far more productive as a group than a individuals (Fullan) I know how lucky I am to have these people working with me and I like them to know that all of the effort is strongly appreciated by me as their leader, because ultimately it is about our kids- and that value added makes all of the difference. They don’t expect presents, ‘stickers’ and the like, but regardless of all the views, I think when the data is up, when someone stays back for play day all night, spends their lunchtimes supporting at risk kids and turns up everyday to support a diverse group of learners who wear us out but we still want the best for them- I acknowledge that they are fabulous!

  4. I agree that praise, when not overused, is vital in keeping both children and adults inspired, motivated and willing to face new challenges. Praise, in the form of positive feedback, is essential for students and teachers to celebrate successes and to make plans to improve their practice or learning.
    When students are facing a challenging task or a teacher is simply having a difficult day, a positive comment, simple praise or acknowledgement of efforts, and words of encouragement can go a long way in motivating that person to overcome a hurdle and experience success. Most importantly a kind word or praise will put a smile on one’s face and brighten up a classroom or workplace!

  5. I think detailed and genuine feedback is best, ie, not “You are doing a great job” but “This is what you are doing that is great” mixed in with some constructive feedback such as “Have you thought about developing your skills in X?” etc. i think people, especially in the early stages of their careers like to get a sense of where they are heading so telling them about different kinds of roles they might aspire to in future is good too. THis probably applies just as well to school kids – although telling them about workplace possibilities probably a bit distant/missing the point. For my son, who is good at art and science (but struggles in other areas), it has been great to take him on a tour of the local high school where he can see the facilities and the work produced by the older students studying these subjects.

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