In praise of praise...for pupils and teachers

A teacher reports not being allowed to praise children. But, says Colin Harris, judicious praise is vital for everyone’s confidence and self-esteem

Colin Harris

Hands clapping and thumbs up

Praise: once the most important element of every teacher’s skillset.

Yet this week I was told by a teacher that they were now “not allowed” to praise the children in their school. A new school policy for 2019 involved handing out no praise at all within the school.

As a young teacher, I found that teacher praise was a vital element to every lesson. Though I have heard the arguments suggesting that it has been overused, I still feel that every teacher should use praise and should also be praised.

It is human nature to want to hear, and to value, praise. People’s self-esteem and confidence surely reflect the amount of praise they have received in their lives. If used well, praise can certainly motivate individuals and create a positive and successful classroom or working environment.

Of course, some teachers overuse praise or fail to use it at the appropriate times. This can have a negative effect on some pupils. But to say it can’t be used at all any more does seem to be a little melodramatic. It looks like overkill.

Moving pupils forwards

Praise is totally the right response when you want to recognise engagement with a task, or the improvement pupils have made in that task or the perseverance they have shown in elements of their work. Using praise on these occasions allows teacher and pupil to develop a rapport through the latter’s achievements and their attitude to their school work. It moves a pupil forwards in a positive way.

Of course, praise should always be used in a truthful way. Praise for no reason has no place. However, being truthful, sensitive and empathetic towards a pupil’s work is positive in so many ways.

As a teacher, I followed this mantra wholeheartedly. When I later I become a manager and leader, I always believed that appropriate praise for staff underpinned every aspect of school life.

All teachers want to improve but negative “do it my way” observations of teachers do nothing for the individual. Positive, meaningful and supportive discussions of what went well – and what didn’t – have always been the way to do it.

Teachers work so hard and truly deserve all the praise they can get...and, no, it shouldn’t be stopped.

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were “outstanding” across all categories

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Colin Harris

Colin Harris

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were “outstanding” across all categories.

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