“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”
-William Arthur Ward

Here at my college, as well as at all those colleges and Universities on the semester system, the academic year is coming to an end. For those of you in elementary or secondary schools — or on quarters at college — you’ve got less than two months until the years is out.

And while “school’s out” may be the ultimate goal for many of you, as your finals, last papers, grading, and exams will all be over at last, I’d like to suggest one more thing to think about.

Think about where your students are going to find themselves five, ten, or fifteen years from now. While opportunities may seem limitless, especially for those students who are excelling right now, there’s a very simple thing you can do to help.

Pull one of them aside, at some point, and praise them. Encourage them. Tell them that you noticed that they’re good at something, and that you think they have the potential to be excellent at (insert ambitious career path here).

It doesn’t matter what the age of your student is, either. If you notice something exceptional, take those extra few minutes — even if it’s just for one student — and let that student know what you see.

Why? Because many students go through their whole academic lives without ever being encouraged like that. Even, believe it or not, the really great students. I’m not sure if it’s because people assume that a hard working, quiet student who achieves highly doesn’t need the extra praise or help, but down the road, it can make all the difference in the world.

Image credit: Nannie and B's crafts.

Think someone would make an excellent doctor? Scientist? Musician? Let them know the good things and the potential for even better things that you see in them; you might be the only one ever to offer something like that. Offer to write a letter of recommendation for them in the future, whatever it may hold.

Those few minutes you spend on that student may be more valuable to them than you can possibly know. It’s possible that letting them know that you noticed how good they are can help them believe in themselves enough to chase that dream they may have let fade away otherwise. If you find the time (and the right student), give it a shot. You might be one who makes all the difference.

Comments

  1. #1 1337 irl
    April 30, 2011

    Positive reinforcement ftw! Great post.

  2. #2 john.s.wilkins
    April 30, 2011

    I was thrown out of my final year of high school because teachers told my parents I was too stupid to compete for jobs at the end of the year. I had precisely one teacher who told me I was smart, in 12 years.

    I have a PhD in philosophy of science and now work as a philosopher. But I had to wait until my 40s to do that. Absolutely one should encourage and praise students.

  3. #3 Jason
    April 30, 2011

    Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!

    :p

    I’ve had many great teachers and many great professors in college – and I’ve also had some pretty poor ones. With the exception of only one, I can only recall *that* I did not like specific professors, not *why* I did not like them. In every case, I can remember exactly what the good teachers and professors did to encourage me and support me through my education.

    Perhaps the best thing that any teacher can do is instill a love for learning and encourage the student at all times. I’m glad I grew up in such a good educational environment, and (when I find a job and get an income…) I hope to continue to further my formal education.

    Thanks to you, too, Ethan. I love your posts. You deserve encouragement too!

  4. #4 MadADDer
    May 1, 2011

    I was always told that I was smart, but when I was told that, it was always followed by the fact that I wasn’t “living up to my potential.” I understand now, 25 years later, that the reason for that was ADHD.

    It had the opposite effect on me, in that whenever someone told me that I was smart, up until recently, I took that as a negative.

  5. #5 supratall
    May 1, 2011

    Perhaps the best thing that any teacher can do is instill a love for learning and encourage the student at all times. I’m glad I grew up in such a good educational environment, and (when I find a job and get an income…) I hope to continue to further my formal education.

  6. #6 Steve Westdal
    May 1, 2011

    Hi Ethan

    “Tell them that you noticed that they’re good at something, and that you think they have the potential to be excellent at (insert ambitious career path here).”

    In high school, I almost didn’t go to a university because of the outrageous prices, and I didn’t want to play into the “scam” as I called it. But my English teacher told me what is quoted above: I have great potential, and would be wasting it if I didn’t go to college to study engineering. She put a personal interest in me, and asked me to let her write a letter of recommendation. Without her words of encouragement, I doubt I would have gone.

    Similar words of encouragement came from university professors, such as “you are developing a comprehensive understanding of my course,” “that is an astute observation/question,” or “have you ever considered switching to a math major;” all were invaluable words of encouragement that kept me motivated to learn, validation for putting in those hours of studying.

  7. #7 javad
    May 1, 2011

    Agreed 100 %. Encouragement is really important. I appreciate this article. I hope someone which is able to have the opportunity to make it find it and read.

  8. I can agree it, why because if the teacher Or Any one not given the encouragement means we dont know what we are doing and how we can do, thats why if any one given the encouragement means we also feel proud and also we will try to keep that name in future.

  9. #9 The Other Doug
    May 2, 2011

    Yes, encourage them. Good teaching is basically good coaching. Most folks have a relatively good concept of what constitutes a good sports coach; teaching isn’t altogether much different, especially if we’re talking older kids.

  10. #10 javad
    May 2, 2011

    Hi Ethan,
    This article is related to eduction in fact.
    I would like to share following video about the education.
    It’s worthy to share your point of view as a teacher in this regard.

    link to the video:
    Changing Education Paradigms
    http://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U

  11. #11 Samantha Vimes
    May 7, 2011

    I’m just at the classroom experience part of teacher training, and a tutor, and I’m already trying to do a bit of this.

  12. #12 Jennifer Moss
    December 22, 2011

    Good Post.Teachers place a major roles for the future but now-a-days no one respect their teachers.I was in SSC teacher were friendly with me.

  13. #13 Jennifer Moss
    December 22, 2011

    Good Post.Teachers place a major roles for the future but now-a-days no one respect their teachers.I was in SSC teacher were friendly with me.

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