Day 152, May 27, 2009
Despite the occasional article or book that presents the negative aspects of praise, I continue to think it’s an absolute necessity for the scholars in my classes. However, I like to use the word ‘extol’; I don’t just praise my scholars – I extol them. The dictionary tells me the word derives from the Latin root meaning “to raise up”, which is exactly what I try to do for each of the students as often as possible. Everyone needs to be occasionally raised up – put on a pedestal, brought to center stage, made to feel like they’re standing tall – and that, I feel, is a big part of my responsibility as a teacher. Praising students is too easy and sometimes too hollow; extolling them – sincerely telling them they’re among the best and the bravest and need to stay that way – is the hard and demanding work of the devoted teacher. Today I extolled my 9th grade scholars because they deserved it. I set them up on a dais because they have proved themselves to be champions of English scholarship. This year they have run a marathon of English work, and here at the very end most of them are in an all-out sprint for the finish line. They have saved their best for last, and that’s brave, and that demands to be extolled. If I had a raised platform in my room, I would have insisted that the class stand at the top. They deserved to be ‘raised up’ and honored, and they deserved to be told that they deserved it – and that’s why I extolled them.