Now and then there is talk among teachers about pulling back praise, about saving it for only the most special occasions, but I tend to think in a different way, that we actually should be giving praise more often. Praise might be said to be the expression of respect or gratitude toward someone, and shouldn’t I always respect and be grateful for my students? I don’t have to always like the way they behave in class or carry out their English duties, but my respect for them as distinct human beings, and my gratitude toward them for being precisely who they are, should never waver. I can give a student a failing grade because she made a mess of an assignment, but at the same time carry praise in my heart for her secret and sometimes startling uniqueness. I can berate a boy for his silly behavior, but still be grateful that such a disquieting and interesting student is in my class. Even a lesson that collapses in boredom and puzzlement deserves some praise, for how else can I learn but through my own errors and breakdowns? Truly, don’t we learn best by being broken and then mended and renovated? Don’t even our occasional classroom disasters deserve some praise?
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