Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Great Job" and Other Phrases Crippling Our Kids

I realize I have a horrendous habit of giving empty feedback to others. You might say I’m the big bright “Great Job!” sticker on the top of the test. I’ll give you a brief pick-me-up but am useless in terms of growth.
I often play riveting games of chance with my son. Games like Candyland and Trouble. He’ll roll a six and I’m always there with an “Awesome job buddy!” At least I used to be. No longer am I offering praise based on acts of luck, even when his needy eyes fall on me, seeking approval. I’ve taken the same stance as a teacher. I do my best to avoid an isolated “Great job” or “You’re awesome!”

People successful in relationship also succeed as encouragers. But it seems today we have a misconception of encouragement. We often compliment, thinking we’re offering encouragement. For example, the symbol of today’s society is the participation trophy.

We’re taught to “encourage one another and build each other up,” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Some translations of this same verse use the word edify which means to instruct or benefit. How did our acts of encouragement and building get confused with complimenting? Now we’ve opened up the runway for Entitlement to make its landing. Unfortunately Entitlement’s luggage, filled with perseverance and grit, has been lost somewhere on the other side of the world.  

“Great Job!”
The worst thing you could can say to a growing mind.
“Great Job!”
Two words said repeatedly as everyone receives a trophy for participation.
Giving someone undeserved recognition is a damaging act.

The receiver of this message is left to draw their own conclusions.
    “Man I’m awesome!”
    “Wow, people like me.”
    “Life’s all about luck, and boy do I have it today.”
    “I’ve arrived!”
Ephesians 4:29 says, ”Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
The phrase “Great job” does not benefit the receiver of these words unless it is followed by an affirmation, specific to the task. Like: Great job trying repeatedly until you figured it out. Great job using your resources to help you problem solve.
Said in isolation, any compliment is not helpful for building others up according to their needs. When I think of building I think of constructing something on a strong foundation. “Great job” lacks any foundation.

Much research on education points to feedback as being one of the most influential factors of student learning. This aligns with Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

May our words benefit those around us as we provide affirmation specific to their trials and accomplishments!

If you're looking for more examples of my faulty responses to students, check out "Responding to Distractions: Shhh, Not Now!"

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Problem with "Old School"

In her reflections on faith and art Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “It has often struck me with awe that some of the most deeply religious people I know have been, on the surface, atheists.” In the same way the traditional vision for education is its biggest enemy.

The “Deeply Religious”

It’s easy for traditions to turn into a checklist of rules to follow. The biblical example of this being the Pharisees who were caught up in their teaching of irrelevant laws. These laws were initially aligned under God but when Jesus came and made it a direct relational game for all who believe, the Pharisees were too hardened to move off their teachings.
Jesus repeatedly declares them “hypocrites” and “blind guides”.
Some excerpts from Jesus’ rant against the teachers of the law and Pharisees (Matthew 23):
“You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

The Education Traditionalist

background photo credit: Charlie Stinchcomb flickr
I think I notice this same disconnect with individuals that have climbed to the top of academia without ever truly learning or teaching. In this case education is the process of achieving a rank. Does a degree necessarily equal automatic qualification? Success in life should never be associated with one’s worldly appointed status.

I do believe schooling can powerfully develop and grow an individual as long as it is paired with relationships along the way. Unfortunately it is easy to pound through classes and degrees in isolation. The academic structure is setup to promote a single aspect of intelligence, limiting the product of our education.

The Pharisees along with the “standardized” educator are good people with good intentions as they strictly follow an outdated and irrelevant set of practices. A belief depositing them in a land of judgement and control.

Guiding the students without controlling them is a real struggle the teacher faces every minute in the classroom. The same probably goes for leaders and parents.