CheetahCountrySurprise We do not reward “hard work” or “rule following”
CheetahCountrySurprise#2 We do not reward “hard work” or “rule following” Nothing makes a kid turn on you like fake praise. It is the blood in the water that draws out the sharks and nothing makes them come for you faster than words of encouragement for mediocrity or for things that are expected for daily existence. “Great job, you put your coat in your cube” are words never to be heard here. You would think there would be more cube filling of items if there was praise of cube filling of items- but friend that does not happen! If your boss told you he liked the report you submitted, and it is just some form to fill out- you would feel weird. The compliment would feel fake. So is the same with students. Students will put items in their cubes and neatly, when they run into trouble finding their items. Why? Children and adolescents alike will not repeat a behavior just because someone says the behavior made the observer happy. The behavior has to make the student happy too. Students want to hear honest, genuine feedback; feedback they can act on; feedback that matters to them. So the secret is…. we use those opportunities where traditional syrupy-praise might be- and instead use another tool even more powerful than praise- PRECISE LANGUAGE. (insert choir of angels type music!) When kids are given accolades for something they did, and it precise, it is easier for them to scrutinize and decide if it is true for them. When the language is plain and precise, and the student wrestles with it and feels it is genuine, the student is then built up, not left like a shiny and sparkly fake mermaid tale. Shiny and Sparkly tarnishes quickly when the going gets tough. Genuine sticks like glue because you can recall it for support. The tool in action Using precise language makes things longer and takes more time…. See the shift below as a more traditional form of praise or encouragement [in the brackets like this] is replaced with a targeted snippet of precise language. The precise language is in bold and underlined.
instead of saying.....[You can do it!] (student asks for help and says math problems are hard) Partner: “So true, these equations are hard. Yet, you have worked on six so far and five are correct. How awesome will it be when you are done with these, and you can say they are now easy”
instead of saying....[Great Job!] (student asks for help and says she is stuck) “Right, this sentence is a tricky one, and you did miss this one here because you ignored the fact that the verb and subject do not agree. Here you paid attention to that detail, and again here and here. Of the three, two are spot on. You are setting yourself up for a real streak. I also noticed how you were able to use the comma strategy we learned yesterday all the way in this piece.”
The use of precise language is a gift for a student because it does not judge. It focuses on what the student is able to do right now, what they still have yet to learn , or what he or she has accomplished.
When genuine, precise language is used- conversations begin; the kind students place trust in:
Partner: You are behind? Hmm, let’s look at the data. True, your current points are behind. How can I help you with your plan to get them up?.... Student: (explains plan he has in his head but not on paper) Partner: Interesting plan, what might get in your way? Student: I might run out of time. I want to be done but there is only a few days left in the mod right? Partner: There are nine days left. That feels like a good amount of time to me. How might we write this goal in two parts, so you can meet the first like a pit stop until you find your finish line?
The truth is that children know immediately when praise is meaningless and praise that is empty serves no purpose towards building trust, learning about each other or yourself. Part of the culture of Cheetah Country is to experience failure, good hard earned failure- as a marker on the way to success. It is continuous improvement that is motivating. Thus, we aim to re-shift our focus to incremental progress, not huge accomplishments. While accomplishments are often big; they are often rare; They do not occur frequently. Thus if one focuses only on accomplishments, they really are also focusing on when there are none too- the failures. Instead we want students to see the failures getting better and better, so focusing on what is changing- the incremental nature of the process, is the better outcome. That way when the accomplishment comes, it is celebrated by a reflective child- not a child who is so glad to be done with something and on to the next thing. The reward is the sparkle in the student’s eyes when he or she believes what a partner says because the words fit the moment and even more, they then believe it for themselves.