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Posted By Chalkbrd

"What do you want the principal to do, follow you around all day patting you on the back and telling you what a great job you're doing?"

I don't think any teacher would consider this a realistic expectation for an administrator, but I think my colleague who said this to me once missed the entire point I was making.  I was trying to tell her that one three-sentence note of praise to the entire English department in six years of working with this particular principal was not exactly my idea of creating an encouraging environment.

What if his focus had been different?  How many teachers in our small school would have been empowered to be better teachers if instead of standing by silently, waiting for us to make a mistake so he could reprimand us, this administrator would have focused more on the things we did right?

As frustrated as I got with this particular principal, I learned something very valuable from him.  I'd trained myself over the years to be particularly good at seeing what my students failed at, but I'd forgotten to balance that out with encouragement.

I've never been one for handing out empty platitudes, and that's not what I'm suggesting here, but there is something that happens to people when they receive genuine praise for their accomplishments.  They blossom and become so much more than they were before.  It gives them confidence to try something a little bit more dificult, something that stretches them and requires them to grow.

Unfortunately, there was no way I could ever coerce that administrator into handing out compliments to his staff, and even if I could, they would have lost their power because they were not sincere.  All I could do was make sure that I didn't follow his example.

That flaw-finding training is pretty ingrained in me so it's been a challenge to look at people otherwise, but the more encouragement I give others, the more encouragement I get back from them.  It ends up being a win-win situation, and it fuels us all to achieve more.

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