Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Will you accept the "Good Job" Challenge?

I think it's good to praise students. I also think we may over praise students at times. I think praise should be used only when it is deserved. I also think one of the ways we give praise needs to be eliminated. As I have thought more about this recently, I have realized that I do this a lot, and did it even more when I was a classroom teacher with my own students on a daily basis. I always thought I was being really nice and encouraging and supportive with these words, but what I was actually doing, was leaving students confused, perplexed, and empty. Those words, that so many say and are quick to use are these: "Good job." 
What are we really saying to a student when we tell them "good job" on something? I don't know. It is such a general, empty comment. The student is told "good job" and initially feels good, but then think, "what does that mean?" It's too broad. We want to provide high quality feedback for students. It needs to be timely and specific. Saying "good job" is not specific, or high quality. We want to give students something they can grab on to and know exactly what they did well and know exactly what warranted the praise--that way, they will repeat that behavior in the future. If they are just told "good job," they don't know exactly what behavior to replicate in the future to continue to earn praise.

Think about it: If you see a friend of yours who has lost a lot of weight and you say to that person, "Good job!" that person will appreciate that but "good job" doing what? Not over eating? Going to the gym? Losing the weight? Whatever they did to lose the weight, it was probably very difficult so a more specific comment goes a lot further. Something like, "I can tell you have lost weight! You look great!" That is a comment the person can wrap their head around, feel great about and know exactly what they are getting praised for. 
Or what if your daughter comes up to you and shows you a picture they drew in art class: "Good job!" gives them nothing to go on. Instead, "I like how you shaded those buildings and made the tree look full of life!" That is a piece of praise they can take with them.   

So, I challenge you to accept the "Good Job" challenge. Try to go for a day, a week, a month, whatever time frame you choose and not say "good job" to any student. Try it! I have myself and I have found it to be extremely difficult! It's such a natural, automatic response when you see something good and want to comment on it. It's takes a lot more thought to give specific praise. Give praise (when earned) in a specific way. Explain exactly what the student did that warranted the praise. 

So, go for it. Try to eliminate the phrase "good job" from your daily vocabulary, yet continue praising students when it's deserved. See what happens! 

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