Don’t underestimate the value of praise

Today I received praise for the work I have done in my first half semester since joining this school and it has had such an uplifting, positive and attitude-changing effect on me.

I think sometimes we feel that we are too mature to need praise. I work hard because that is just my work ethic, I go the extra mile because I like to push myself and I hold myself to high standards, also I just love my profession. So I definitely don’t seek out praise – but wow did it feel good to receive it today.

The first two months have definitely been a challenge, there is no doubt about that. The days are longer, I’m new to IB, I am teaching a subject which is new to me as well as heading up a department which spans 3 strands of the same school. It is now assessment week and after working all last weekend I was starting to feel that I was barely keeping my head above water. My colleague at work explained it perfectly when he said he feels like he’s inside a tin can and someone is shaking it. This resonated with me as I have been feeling like I am constantly moving and bouncing in different directions. I don’t think this feeling is unique to me – I am not suggesting I’m working harder than others in my school – I think we are all feeling the weight of assessment week, curriculum planning and countless other responsibilities and tasks that are part of a teacher’s life. Sometimes it is hard to see an end point, in many ways that is one of the things I love about education, that it is dynamic and always evolving, but it is so easy to get stuck in the habit of complaining and being negative about work.

When I was in my meeting today and was praised for the work I have been doing, for the team that we are building in our department and for my ‘invigorating and dedicated leadership’ it kind of made all the hard work worthwhile. Even when you don’t work for the praise and absolutely shouldn’t wait for credit to keep putting your best effort in –¬† it doesn’t change the fact that it feels good to receive it.

As teachers we praise our students all the time; we motivate them, cheer for them and encourage them throughout the days, weeks and months of the school year. But why does it need to stop there? Everyone likes to hear when they’re doing a good job so I am going to make a conscious effort to praise my colleagues and my team more regularly and explicitly (when it is earned of course).

I still believe in “working for a cause, not for applause” but I am going to do more applauding from now on.


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