Is there a word for being both very pleased and angry at the same time?
Because that's what I am.
I'm so pleased that one of my initiatives has proven valuable to my peers. The use of a midcourse update in which we let course participants know how they're doing and, if relevant, what they need to work on or complete, has received very positive feedback. These (roughly) personalized updates are designed to enhance motivation and touch base on a personal level. Most of our course emails are coursewide, but this one goes out to each person separately.
The responses have been overwhelmingly positive. However, I find myself in this strange happy/angry state. For example, one participant wrote:
Thank you for your encouragement! It is not often I get to hear things like that! Made my day!
This response brought a tear to my eye. First, I was really glad I made this person's day! But, then I thought, I didn't do anything big or huge, here.
And then I thought, "Why HASN'T this teacher been offered this sort of encouragement more often? Really, this effort took only a moment. Why is this such a surprise?"
School administrators have a daunting task, granted. Further, they're limited on time, and much of their "attaboys/attagirls" come via generic school-wide emails or on evaluations.
However,the generic email is just that...positive, but lukewarm. A recipient may or may not connect with it. Further, the school-wide or coursewide email goes out to those who may not really deserve to hear the praise, so it's incumbent upon the recipient to self-evaluate with those memos. This approach works for special occasions (We did a great job with Open House!), but not for the kind of morale-boosts that teachers really need.
And hearing praise on an evaluation is also somewhat...meh. It's sort of required, so it doesn't offer the same motivational jolt that a personalized message would.
People need to hear what they're doing RIGHT. That way, we can subtly (or not-so-subtly) reinforce that behavior. Do we bother to do that?
Teachers need to hear more of what they're doing well and effectively. They also need to hear WHY what they're doing works well or reflects best practices.
Students need to hear more of what they're doing well and effectively. They also need to hear WHY and HOW what they're doing works well.
For that matter, school administrators need to hear more of what they're doing well and effectively. They also need to hear WHY what they're doing works well with staff and faculty or reflects best leadership practices.
Our children need to hear what they're doing well and effectively. They also need to hear WHY what they're doing works well, helps others, or contributes to the family.
Our spouses, significant others...The list goes on...
And don't give me that "There's not enough time in the day."
There is time enough in the day to prioritize those things that will make everyone and everything run more smoothly.
There is time enough in the day to send out an "attaboy/attagirl" email, which could, if sincerely offered, offset the later need for a full one-on-one conference to discuss an issue.
There's time enough in the day to write a quick positive on a sticky note and put it in a briefcase, purse, backpack, or lunchbox.
And not just "I like your artwork" or "You are the best!" This positive criticism needs to express both WHAT works well and WHY or HOW. Otherwise, the recipient may perceive you as inauthentic, which is counter-intuitive.
Pre-emptive positives such as these quick emails may take a bit more time, initially, but they ultimately save time and serve to create a powerful foundation of communication and rapport.
How long has it been since you've heard or provided a personal attaboy or attagirl? Tell us about your experiences in the comments, below!
Buy our book! In it, Mindy and some of her former students outline best practices for developing a positive learning environment.
Transparent Teaching of Adolescents: Creating the Ideal Class for Students and Teachers