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Why Should Students be Praised for their Achievements in the Classroom?

Why Should Students be Praised for their Achievements in the Classroom? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Even though some people might disagree with the idea of praising students in the classroom, I hold a strong belief that it is of paramount importance. Praising assists teachers in making students aware of what they have attained. It can be done verbally, through body language or in writing. Nevertheless, praise should be timely, honest, and measured. It could be mutually advantageous for teachers and students. The former will benefit from cementing a healthy relationship with the latter; and the latter will be able to strengthen his or her confidence. Conversely, it could have a detrimental effect on both. For this reason, I will exemplify the advantages and challenges in praising that I have come across in my career as an English Teacher.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Renato A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

My teaching experience: Low motivation

I recall an occasion when I was approached by a person who showed interest in having English lessons with me. I will call this student Marta. Marta exhibited signs of apprehension and a lack of confidence. At the beginning of the conversation, she gave a long speech on how poor her English was and how challenging it had been for her to try to utter a single word in English in front of her co-workers. Next, she explained how demotivating it was to be judged by her peers. As soon as Marta stopped talking, I began my first lesson with her. Initially, I checked if I had understood all the information she had shared with me by repeating her words. Then I asked her if she would not mind telling me about her work duties and maybe about herself. She spoke for almost thirty minutes without any interruption. At the end of our ‘first’ lesson, I called her attention to the fact that she had just accomplished what she believed to be impossible before; to speak in English. I took that timely opportunity to praise her for her choice of vocabulary coupled with the correct use of tenses and fluency. Also, I pointed out that through hard work, commitment, and practice she would be able to improve her English still further. At that point, she was beaming with pleasure and confidence. From the outset, I would praise her for each and every one of her triumphs. In a short period, her confidence was restored and her fear of being judged put under control. Also, Marta’s colleagues noticed her improvement and paid her compliments on her success. With the case above I tried to show the advantages of praising.

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High level of motivation

Nonetheless, it can have a reverse effect. I recollect the time when I taught a fifteen-year-old boy, who was overly confident, self-motivated, and spoke English with no inhibitions. In our first lesson, he seemed to be unconvinced by my competence in teaching him. As the following weeks unfolded, I realized that the task in hand would be fairly formidable. John, as I will call him, was a quick learner. He was very inquisitive and challenged me on almost every aspect of the language from the correct use of the perfect aspect to the origin of idioms. He was dedicated, enthusiastic, and passionate about learning. I was faced with a dilemma: how to keep him motivated and engaged during the lessons and beyond. At first, to my surprise, John appeared to be immune to any praise. He is the type of person who is never impressed by praise. On the contrary, he feels that it was not necessary and was driven by the correctness or not of the task. It was a learning curve for both of us, and it paid off. In the process, I learned that praise should be measured and timely and John somewhat started to appreciate my compliments.

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In conclusion, I have attempted to explain my assumptions about the balance required if effective, positive, and long-lasting praise is desired. Furthermore, another interesting point to be taken into consideration is the fact that by attempting to fulfill my students’ aspirations I have to overcome a cross-cultural barrier. Being originally from Brazil and after spending 18 years in the U.K., at present, I find myself teaching English in Poland. The obstacles encountered are a source of motivation and work as a propeller to my betterment as an English Teacher. I would relish the opportunity to finish my essay by quoting Anne Bradstreet: ‘sweet words are like honey, a little may refresh, but too many gluts the stomach.’

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