Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Myth of Praise

This video highlights the theory that too much of the wrong kind of praise can actually harm children's success in school. It comes to us from a book recommended by one of our bloggers, called "NurtureShock" by Po Bronson.

Very interesting stuff! I found it fascinating that the American mom refused to deliver the bad news to her child that she had done poorly on a test, contrasted with the Chinese mom who very matter of fact told her child she did not score well and then sat with her to go over her errors and show her how to get to the right answer. Are we harming our children by giving too much of the wrong kind of praise? Are we so afraid to let them experience difficulties that we shield them too much? Should we instead, perhaps, be encouraging hard work, challenges and creative problem-solving?


Anonymous said...

Heres the thing...when you have

"honorable mention honor roll"

It sends a message to the kids...

Look its ok that you arent really that motivated to learn, but what the heck you tried right?

Thats when praise goes bad.

Its good to praise your kids to keep going when faced with adversity and challenges.

Motivating kids to accept the status quo and praising mediocrity is a poison this "entitlement culture/generation" drinks on a daily basis.

Gimme this...Gimme that...

What happened to EARNING?

We need to stop giving second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and six hundred and nintey-four chances toget something right the first time

Anonymous said...

hear, hear! even in my south end of the county school in my ap class, students who don't turn in work, get zeroes, just go to an administrator and suddenly i'm asked to give them a chance to make the assignment up. and i'm told he or she is "a good kid." i'm not saying any of the students aren't good kids; i'm trying to teach responsibility as well as my ap course. the re-do policy is a crutch far too many students (and parents) gladly lean on.

No Duh said...

Heard a great talk by Charles Haddad at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend. Told a story about teaching at a summer workshop for young writers. A young high school girl who had been praised for her writing her whole life brought her work to him. They sat down by a tree to review it. He suggested in the MOST gentle and secure way possible that she "take another look at the first paragraph and try again." She burst into tears and ran off. Finally came back, same thing happened over the next four or five paragraphs until she eventually didn't come back to him for his advice.

I am the only parent I know who has begged the Language Arts (and other) teachers to grade my children's writing with a critical eye. Use RED ink. Circle misspellings, grammatical errors, nonsense, poor transitions.

Teachers, throwing this out to you... Do you not grade critically because it takes too much time, or because you are shell shocked over the reactions from previous Johnny/Janies parents? Are you TOLD to ignore the faults and concentrate on the fact the student completed the assignment -- no matter how non-sensical or poorly constructed the effort?

Do you grade the gifted students on a harder scale than the non-gifted? Do you expect more from the gifted students? What's the worst thing that has ever happened to you as the result of giving a poor grade on a paper (something subjective, not objective like math)that truly reflected the product?

As parents, we need to support the teachers when they assess our children's performance poorly. It takes a strong teacher to grade as they see it. And the best way to learn is from our mistakes.

Additionally, we need to encourage (enable) our teachers to hold our children to the highest standard possible. Why would we want less?

Cerebration said...

I think you've hit on something, No Duh. The problem is with grading. Teachers should be there to teach - to guide - to pull gently along. To inspire. The only way to do this is by reading a child's written assignment and giving back constructive, critical responses and allowing the child to write draft 2 - and bring it back for the same treatment. Then draft 3, etc. None of these should be graded. The only piece that should be considered for a grade should be the final.

Teachers have been so over-burdened with paperwork, over-crowded classrooms, etc that they simply do not have the time it takes to give direct, helpful guidance like this. I've even seen situations where teachers have students grade each others work - which I find absurd and useless (not to mention, quite embarrassing for someone who struggles.)

Cerebration said...

I've also come across some teachers who are very random in their grading process and I might even say border on cruel. Believe it or not, my son once turned in a storybook project to a 9th grade LA teacher that he received a score of '70' on after writing and illustrating a story that took him many hours. Why? Because the teacher claimed he hadn't turned in a signed release from the young person who the story was about. (He had - I saw it - but the teacher says she never received it - so she gave him a "D"). He never wanted to write after that, even though he's a pretty good writer.

So - being too harsh can have just as dire consequences.

Anonymous said...

Get real people....This is a bit much. Allow teachers to teach and children to learn.
Stop this blame game.
Get off the sideline and help your teachers, students and schools.

This gimmmeee you speak of starts at home and then, it spreads into our society.

Stop trying to tell our teachers how to teach and how to run their classrooms and how to grade and how to please parents who think they know what is best.

Go back to school, earn an education degree.If you already have one, put it to use. Then you can be on the other side of the desk with all your best practice ideas, theories and videos.

Walk in their shoes. Deal with what they have to endure each and everyday.
When was the last time you rolled up your sleeves and worked at your local school?

Put it on your to do list since it is so important. You make the time to read and write on this blog.

Cerebration said...

Whoa. Yikes. Guess we've been "told".

To answer your question though, I've probably volunteered about a total of 1400 hours of my time to DCSS (maybe more?) over the years. This is on top of my regular work. I know for a fact that we have some wonderful teachers, and we have some who are pretty far from wonderful too. That's all.

Anonymous said...

I guess someone hit a nerve w/ anon. 3:59. What you fail to realize it that the people who take the time to read this blog are the very same people who take the time to volunteer in their children's schools.

The current county-wide practice of allowing multiple chances to complete assignments does a huge disservice to the students. Those who move onto to college after being coddle their entire DCSS career are in for a wake-up call when they get their first zero for turning in poorly done work, or trying to turn in a late assignment.

Dekalbparent said...

I read the question for teachers as:

"Have you had an experience (or many) that discouraged you from grading honestly and critically with an eye toward improving the student's work?"

I would like teachers to weigh in on this question, too. Is it just too difficult these days to grade this way?

I have always wanted my kids' work graded honestly (even though it hurts my ego). How are they going to become better if they don't know where they need improvement?, Eventually, they will be judged honestly - later on in school, maybe in the work world - and it shouldn't be a shock.

Anonymous said...

I do agree it starts at home with these kids.
I currently volunteer with the English second language and Economically Disadvantaged kids who can't pass math in the 4th grade. How they made it through to the fifth grade is beyond me. Well, status quo is to pass them on to someone else and not hold them back.
They want to learn and they have the ability to learn but the problem is that as soon as they leave school, the learning stops. Their home environment is not conducive to learning, much less excelling.
It breaks my heart to see them struggle with simple addition and subtraction. It also empowers me to see them understand it and want more. They want to excel and be a part of the classroom. They want to raise their hand and give the correct answer.
The teacher does not have the time or the resources to "Catch them up" to the current work.
Dr. Beasley loads the teachers down with paperwork in addition to their current workload. DCSS siphons money away from the classrooms via upper management at The Palace!
My point is this, praise the kids for doing the work correctly. Push them to learn more. Make them learn it correctly. But we can't accept passing a kid who doesn't have the knowledge and push them through the system and make it someone else's problem to deal with. I believe in the theory of "No Child Left Behind" but the execution is terrible.
The answer starts November 2nd.
I'll see you at the polls and in the meantime I'll see you helping out at the schools. Start volunteering, we can't rely on DCSS anymore!
Sagamore 7.

Anonymous said...

We need state officials that will stand up to the Feds. Other states asked for and received a variety of waivers/exceptions to the provisions of NCLB through the years. Kathy Cox was busy building her resume though and never sought relieve, until the new math came out and scores plummeted.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I have been asked to change a child's grade and I have refused to do it. I grade with purple pen, because it's my favorite color and I do expect children to learn from their mistakes. When I grade writing, I am looking for students to learn from past mistakes. If they don't work to correct the errors that we have talked about in private conversations, their grade is reflected accordingly. I do not believe in the no zero policy or the multiple do overs that plague DCSS. I also do not agree with having to pass students in ESOL or Special Education who have not put forth effort in the class. These are other ridiculous rules that do not help the children.

I understand that not everyone comes from a home where learning is important, but we should not make excuses for these children. My own father was not able to do his homework when he got home until he got his farm work done. Often he did his homework on the bus to and from school or late at night or not at all during harvest time. His teachers did not give him excuses and the lack of excuses and honest grades sparked a desire to work hard and make something of himself. He is an avid reader and learner, even though learning was not the priority of his home growing up.

This video shows why many of the policies in DCSS and throughout our nation are hurting our children. Many of our children will have a very difficult time competing with their peers from other countries once they graduate high school.

Often times we (adults) think that we are helping our children when in reality we are harming them.

Anonymous said...

Where's my red ink!

Anonymous said...

When I correct papers, I correct a student's spelling errors as I go. If I don't my own spelling deteriorates. I also believe that the more you see a misspelled word, the more likely you are to misspell it in the future. I am always amazed at how students don't even copy from the board, or a paper correctly. It's all right there in front of them and you have to ask them to fix their paper.

I've always said that if you warn three times, you will always have to warn three times to get the behavior you want. The same goes with our Zero Policy. There comes a point where the excuses have to stop and students are held accountable for their work. Multiple chances just means that students don't have to do the work, until they want to. In my opinion, A work is done correctly the first time and it is turned in on time.

Anonymous said...

Lets do the math Celebration: 1440 hrs * 8 hrs = 180 8 hrs days. Get the picture. Thanks for the effort but maybe you fall short of the mark. Never personal......Just the MYTH of PRAISE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Someone can always sit back and pick holes in any effort at anytime.

Cerebration said...

I guess I wasn't clear -- those hours were over the course of about 14 years - surely I volunteered at least 100 hours a year. (That happens to all PTA officers, parent council officers and in-school volunteers - you really have no idea how how so many parents work behind the scenes). So actually, I'm certain I gave more time than that. Interesting though - when I attend to my own work load - no one is there to help me out.


Cerebration said...

I hope my original point was clear - I'm opposed to so much grading. I think teachers should be able to spend time imparting knowledge and guiding students as they learn more than requesting an assignment then grading it and putting the grade in eSIS. One class my child had about 100 grades entered for the semester. That is too much busywork for teachers.

Hey - I can take a tough teacher - I learned from nuns!

Anonymous said...

I learned from my 10th grader a few weeks ago that my excellent middle school, in the gifted classes, goes over pretty much the exact form of the tests the day before the tests (sometimes exact, sometimes just a close copy). The kids don't have to critically think or synthesize information to excel. HS in our area is a shock and when he went private it was a real shock. At the private school, they spent many weeks working on a single 10-12 page essay/research paper 2-3 times last year. The essays, with supporting quotations from the particular book (the Odyssey or Julius Caesar), went through many drafts and re-writes. He really learned to critically think and critically write. To me, after seeing a different child in the "same" curriculum in DeKalb a few years prior, this is one of the big differences in the 2 curricula. I note for the galley that the class sizes are much smaller so it is easier to go through so many drafts with real oversight and instruction by the teacher....The teachers also have total control over the curriculum in the private school (which can backfire if the teacher is poor).

No Duh said...

Anon 6:16. I hope you are one of my children's teacher!

DeKalb Parent reworded my original question to teachers much more eloquently. Thank you. I did not mean to make anyone angry (did you read my last two paragraphs?)

I want to understand what prevents you from grading critically so that, as a parent "leader," I can better understand your dilemmas and better advocate for you. If you knew me, you'd know I am the least hostile parent toward teachers out there.

Hakuna matata

Anonymous said...

I have been teaching Middle School in DCSS for over 20 years and been grading papers with red ink the entire time. Parents love it so much, I receive boxes of red pens every Christmas!

In regards to the projects/reports being turned in on time, I deduct 10 points for everyday it is late. You can't imagine how many parents that have come in to beg for no deductions, the excuses I get are very entertaining.

I am tough on my students, however the respect I get from them is awesome and most of them come back and thank me for preparing them for High School and College. I tell my students everyday, in real life you do not get a do-over!

I also tell them don't quit! Don't ever quit working hard to excel, no matter how tough it gets, your work will pay off in the long run!

I am always in my classroom after school and make myself available for those who are having a tough time figuring something out, if they show me they are willing to work at it, I grade them accordingly. But nothing is given freely in my class, you must work for that grade!

Dekalbparent said...

Thank you to all the teachers who are upholding standards despite the obstacles put in your way. I suspect there are many of you who are going under the radar enforcing your [sound] rules.

Doesn't that sound bizarre - having to look over your shoulder to teach the way most of us want our kids to be taught?

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:11 please tell us some of the stories/excuses you've heard. WE could all use a little levity!

Anonymous said...

Here are some excuses I have heard...

For context, every project I assign, I give my students, at minimum, 3 weeks notice. So some of these I have to say are rather funny.

-We were in Cancun, and they didn't have internet at the hotel.

-Our dog pooped on the project this morning. I asked them to bring in the soiled document. You should have seen the look on that parents face!

-Our computer's been down for a month. Of course I sent an email that afternoon to them, and they replied within 5 minutes.

-It blew out the window of our car on the way to school! Of course it was 33 degrees that morning.

-We didn't have glue to stick the pictures to the poster board.

-My husband and I are getting a divorce and I was out late last night with my attorney. I asked what that had to do with her sons project, she said, "nothing!"

-I mailed it by accident, this morning, with our taxes. (I almost believed this one)

-We went to the Braves game last night and it went extra innings! (Which it had)

Cerebration said...

Ha... those are so great. You teachers should keep diaries and write books. My mother in law was a second grade teacher in Ohio and she told some doozies.

(That said, just last week, my niece's homework really did get chewed up by their goat -- she brought the mangled paper in anyway!)

Anonymous said...

DCSS is about to raise the graduation rate again.

The Dekalb On Line Academy (DOLA) is going to have a crack at passing kids who have earned (more likely being given) a charitable average of 50% in a semester class...for free.

Wow--All we have to do is get a 50% in a class and we are of to see DOLA!

Beasley & Tyson: why don't you guys just make 50% and stop this tired charade? Beasley will take credit for the new graduation rate and credit his multiple intelligence scheme and/or his great skills.

Woe is us!!

Anonymous said...

Cere, Your niece was smart to bring in the mangled report! I asked many parents bring in whatever their kids had and I'll grade accordingly. Too often they had never done the work. But to have your report eaten by a goat, I have to say it would be tough to deduct points for neatness!

Anonymous said...

Who wants to have their kids in a English class where the new passing is 50%?

Looking at the standard DCSS syllabus that all English teacher have to have, a kid gets a 50% by just doing class work and pretending to participate!!

Anonymous said...

With 50% being passing, why even bother, just give them an A and call it a day. Someone who attended an on-line pay for the degree that you want program, must have come with this idea.

Anonymous said...

Hot darn!! I did not fail! I got a 50!! I'll get the rest from DOLA over the break...

Why are the other foolish students studying for??

This why I love Dekalb School: they are the underachiever's best friend!!

Cerebration said...

The latest emails circulating from Beasley - it looks like he has heard the "outcry"!

From: MORCEASE J. BEASLEY 9/9/2010 4:00:57 PM
Subject: Discontinue Benchmarks Immediately
Cc: CRICKET B. WHITE T & L Division

Mr. Moseley, please send the email below to all Principals and APs. Thanks. Dr. B.

Greetings Principals and Assistant Principals,

Effective immediately, please discontinue with the current administration of the benchmark process. I have determined that we will utilize an end-of-semester benchmark administration. This decision was made after much consideration of the many challenges that continue to arise related to the current process. Additionally, the end-of-semester data should yield more valid and reliable data in that teachers and instructional coaches will not be consistently distracted from the teaching and learning process. Please discontinue all scanning and administering of district-wide benchmarks immediately. All district benchmarks will be administered at the end of each semester. The end-of-semester benchmarks will be aligned to our pacing guides and numerically aligned with the CRCT/GHSGT/EOCT. I do hope this decision is supported by all in that we believe it is the right thin g to do as we focus on teaching and learning. Please share this message with all teachers and instructional coaches.


Dr. Beasley

Dr. Morcease J. Beasley
Interim Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
Department of Teaching and Learning
O) 678-676-0731
F) 678-676-0759
Email) Morcease_J_Beasley@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Setting the Standard for Excellence in Teaching and Learning


To: All Teachers
From: Dr. Morcease J. Beasley, Interim Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
Subject: Discontinuation of Current Benchmark Process
Date: 10 September, 2010

Principals, Assistant Principals, and Instructional Coaches have been informed to discontinue the current 4.5 or 6 week benchmark process immediately. Due to the many challenges with the current benchmark process, we are planning to implement an end-of-semester benchmark process. The end-of-semester benchmark process will be less disruptive, require less paper and ink, and should yield more valid and reliable results. Teachers should continue to implement the seven-step instructional process and prepare all students to do well on any and all assessments. Teachers should utilize their formative assessment data to guide their instructional and intervention decisions. We know that our Teachers will prepare all of our students to do well on the end-of-semester benchmarks. We do hope that this decision is supported by all as we focus on teaching and learning.
Distributed By
The DeKalb County Postmaster

Anonymous said...

The news about stopping benchmarks is great not only for the teachers and children. I have one question, what about all of the money that was purchased on scanners and scanning printers-just another waste?

Before the school district purchases anything else-printers, photocopiers, etc-they need to seriously think about it as a true need or a want. We have too many people in our county unemployed and we continue to waste money like it can be printed or picked off a tree.

I really am glad to see the benchmarks go. I just get tired of seeing the wasteful spending.

Be True to Your School said...

Beasley is a rank amateur -- with "rank" being the operative word.

He is now discontinuing something that he never should have started, that was worthless to begin with and that an experienced administrator would never have considered.

I also find it amusing that he is unable to address teachers directly in an e-mail. He sends it to "Background Noise" Mosely to disseminate. And, his point is ... ?

Further, he is an exceptionally slow learner in terms of getting consensus and buy-in from our teachers. Instead of asking teachers for their thoughts and suggestions, he just announces (through "Background Noise" Moseley) his latest "flavor of the month" idea.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was amusing that he put his own tag line at the end of his email.

Setting the Standard for Excellence in Teaching and Learning