In the rush to enter quarterly grades, hold parent teacher conferences and analyze the data from last year’s test scores, one of the most important strategies a teacher can share is too often forgotten.
What do students need MOST from us? Encouragement. Some of them come from homes in which encouragement is never offered to them. Too many come from homes where discouragement is the main course of the day.
Even those who do hear encouraging words in their homes may turn a deaf ear on the words from a loved one. One time I was offering some words of encouragement to my own daughter, Kelsey. She looked at me and said, “You have to say that. You’re my parent. But other people don’t think that about me.” She shot down my words just like that. And sadly she was right. Much of the world failed to see all the great qualities she possessed.
Stop right now. Think. Reflect. How many times can you offer words of encouragement to students today? Make it a personal challenge. Keep track of it if you have to. Give yourself a point every time you say something encouraging to a student or a co-worker.
Good news! I bet each of us can think about encouraging words that were offered to us years ago. Kind and encouraging words have the power to inspire us forever. I have some that I heard decades ago that I can pull out and replay whenever I need them now. Why do we forget this? Because it is rare that we get the opportunity to hear how our words have inspired someone else. However…remember this because it is important… just because we don’t get to hear their power doesn’t mean their power is diminished. Encouraging words matter!
Bad news! Unfortuantely the only comments more powerful than encouraging words are negative remarks. It is sad but true that it takes exponentially more positive words to erase negative comments that we also hear. It’s a big job, but the kind of people who enter the profession of teaching are exactly the kind of people who are worthy of that challenge.
What Really Matters?
Believe me I know how easy it is to get caught up in the frustrations of the new software that won’t work. I know how much it hurts when your students’ test scores are compared negatively with the kids from a neighboring community with an entirely different demographic. The hall duties, test score paranoia, and scripted programs can wear down even the most optimistic teacher among us.
Let me be your zoom lens today. If you took dozens of digital photos of your classroom today, how many snapshots would include you encouraging a student? When the frustrations of the profession start to get you out of focus, zoom in on the kids. Let the other distractions fade into the background. Zoom in on the students. Encourage them. That is what drew us into the teaching profession to begin with.
Remember when you were in college and all people talked about was their GPA? It defined you. Your grade point average determined if you could get into the college you wanted within your university. Everyone told you your GPA would get you a job offer. And to some degree that was true…for your FIRST job. But once you got your first teaching job, how many people have asked you what your college GPA was? In real life those numbers fade into the background.
Real life is about persevering during tough times. Real life is about setting goals and pursuing your dreams. Living successfully is about overcoming obstacles and pushing through fears. Life is about taking risks in the face of failure. It is about choosing the crooked road to live out your dreams. What helps a person do all those things? It is not test scores. It is the encouraging words that someone (hopefully a teacher) shared with us along the way. It is the belief in ourselves that someone planted within us…using encouraging words during our discouraging moments. Those words are what will follow students forever and help determine their success in life. At the risk of being tarred and feathered by politicians and the authors of standardized tests, the words you say to your students to encourage them have more power to impact their lives in a positive way than anything else. Period.
TEACH…To Change Lives
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