Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it.
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Find Ways to Offer Praise
I have a German shepherd puppy, and my quest since she’s arrived in our home has been to train her so that she grows up to be a respectful and calm dog. Currently, she is exceptionally cute, as puppies are. Given my decades as an educator, I know that cute wears off. The hope is that when it does, a well-mannered dog will remain.
Since I’m an educator and not a dog trainer, I googled how to train a dog. It turns out that there are many philosophies when it comes to dog training. To anyone who knows me, it is not a surprise that I’m drawn to the belief in positive reinforcement.
The idea is that rather than reprimanding poor behavior, you find ways to offer praise. For example, when she’s biting my feet, instead of saying “No!” I say, “Look!” When she looks up at me, I praise her and give her a treat.
When she swipes Jordan’s wrestling shoe from his sports bag, instead of yelling “No!” I say, “Look!” When she looks up at me, I praise her, give her a treat, and take the shoe.
When she barks incessantly, instead of shouting “No!” I say, “Look!” When she looks up at me, I praise her and give her a treat.
This line of training has been frustrating to the kids. They reason that she needs to get in trouble for doing the wrong thing so she can learn. I believe she just needs to learn to do the right thing and there won’t be many problems.
“It’s really not all that different from how Mom treats us,” Sam said.
“What do you mean?” Jordan said.
“She’s always telling us the good stuff we do. It makes you want to do more good stuff. But sometimes it makes me mad, because I think you should get in trouble.”
My husband, Andy, chuckled from the brutal honesty of the statement from one brother to another.
“Yeah,” Jordan said, “I think you should get in trouble a lot more than you do.”
It’s human nature to want justice. I’m just not convinced that policing poor behavior will ever have a positive effect on an environment. I believe people (and my cute puppy) want to do the right thing.
There are times when the puppy needs a little more redirection. In those moments, she gets a time-out. Some days she has many time-outs. Many days she has none. The same is true with humans. Some days we need more redirection and a little time out…or a lot of time out. Many days we truck along just fine.
As the new year brings challenges, may we remember to focus on the positive behaviors we see in others. Offer a bit of praise, perhaps give a treat…and maybe, even, find a puppy to play with.
This week we look at equity. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Editor, Choice Literacy
This month’s Featured Contributor is Christy Rush-Levine. Christy is a middle school language arts teacher outside of Chicago. Connect with Christy on Twitter, Instagram, and her blog, interstice. This month you’ll find her on the Big Fresh podcast, taking over our Instagram feed, and releasing her course about conferring with readers. Learn more about Christy and find her articles and videos on the site by clicking here.
Every teacher wants to be more inclusive. But where do you begin? Melanie Meehan presents three practical starting points.
On A Year of Reading blog, Franki Sibberson considers the racist stereotypes in books that feature monkeys.
Our courses are now live on the site! In a time when it is crucial to hear from educators on the front lines, Choice Literacy is pleased to bring you content straight from educators who carry full-time contracts with schools and are navigating the uncharted territories of a pandemic. Members will find free access, and everyone else may purchase the courses.
Christy Rush-Levine takes you into her middle school classroom and shares the strategies and techniques she uses with her students to deepen their reflection and understanding of books while conferring. And this is all done in five minutes or less without feeling rushed or constrained by a protocol. Meaningful Reading Conferences: 5 Minute Wonders is free for members and available to purchase for everyone else.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Seven of our contributors collaborated to create an Elementary Contributor Course and a Secondary Contributor Course with the theme Empower Choice. Get to know our contributors and enjoy this roundup of practices to hold true to the roots of choice, even in the midst of chaos. Free for members.
In an encore video, Stella Villalba scaffolds the language development of her first- and second-grade English language learners during read-aloud by highlighting vocabulary and providing a tool to assist with a partner retelling activity.
Are you working with teachers virtually? Check out our course Virtual Coaching: Working with Individuals. Experienced literacy coaches share their strategies for adapting their one-on-one coaching techniques to a remote environment. Free for Literacy Leader members.
Pirette McKamey explains what anti-racist teachers do differently in their classrooms.
Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart.
That’s all for this week!