Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!"

Reading Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!" by Alfie Kohn gave me a new outlook on a few things, but for the most part I completely disagree with his ideas and reasoning. I am more familiar with younger children so when I compare experiences vs. what he says, it will be based on my observations in a first grade classroom.

As a teacher in a classroom, students look up to you and strive for your attention just as you need to strive to keep theirs. It turns into a competition for many of my little first graders for them to see just how long or how frequently they can obtain my attention. When they are working on their science projects and finish writing a sentence or two about their growing plants, they come to me to double check it. I praise them not only for what they wrote but for having the courage to come up to me and ask for additional help. This, for what I have noticed, causes them to like coming to me for help and shows others in the class that they shouldn't be afraid to ask a teacher for advice to better themselves in class.

I use praises for classroom comfort and to make students strive for success. They do not strive for just another "Good Job!" they strive for what they think I, as a teacher, would consider nearest perfection that I could not ask for more. I can see it in their faces and body language when they sit back down after hearing from me, both praise and constructively critique their work, that they want to improve so they can get a praise alone.

Kohn stated "Every time we say, "Good Job!", though, we're telling a child how to feel." which I believe is true. When we praise a child, we are telling them they should feel good about what they did or said to earn the praise. But we are not telling them to what extent to feel. When I tell a student who finished their test early "Good Job!" I'm not telling them they should feel so good about it that they shouldn't double check their work, I'm simply saying that they did a great job focusing enough to finish. This, I believe, should be clarified with the student you praise.


After listening to the different views about this, I have come to different conclusions. I better understand why it is not good to say "good job" to students too much, and have found alternative ways to go about reacting to what my students do.

I had a Kohn moment when I was working one on one with a student and the teacher had asked anyone in the class who had enough tickets to raise their hands so she could call them up to the prize box. The student I was working with raised his hand and yelled "I do!" and the teacher told him that he had to wait until I was done working with him to go to the prize box. This made he very upset, he started crying and shut down. He wouldn't listen to a word I said to him. The teacher finally gave in and let him pick a prize so he would continue working with me. "But the real problem isn't that children expect to be praised for everything they do these days. Its that we're tempted to take shortcuts, to manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values." (Kohn) This moment also reminded me of Delpit because instead of telling the student what he was doing wrong and explaining the rules and codes of power, she gave in and rewarded him for bad behavior.