Whether through merit or effort badges or recognition in Gold Book assemblies at the Junior School, da Vinci awards, credits or presentation assemblies in the Senior School, or dialogue in the classroom, through encouragement and praise, pupils flourish at the Dixie and learn to become responsible for their own achievements and behaviour.
All of us thrive on praise – we all enjoy being recognised for our endeavours, and at the Dixie we understand the potent power of praise. We also know that to be effective it must be connected to a process, rather than intelligence or natural ability – we praise students for the progress they make rather than for just the end product. Effective praise provides students with the kind of positive reinforcement that builds on success, motivates them to learn, and increases their participation in class and school life.
Praise has its place in every single lesson at the Dixie; to reject it would be to encourage a clinical and cold environment. When well employed, it can motivate students and help build a positive and optimistic classroom culture and better relationships with other students. People can spot disingenuous praise a mile off, however, and students are no different; they know what constitutes their best efforts and if they are really striving to achieve it. If we want to inspire our students to believe they can achieve more we cannot afford to praise them cheaply. To motivate students – especially older students who are more discerning and better able to appreciate the differences between what is said and what is meant – teachers need to avoid praise that is not truthful … or has not been earned. Praise at the Dixie is based on high expectations – of behaviour, manners, initiative and involvement.
Sensitivity and empathy are also vital when considering how to praise students meaningfully. We all know the students who would curl up in embarrassment if they were acknowledged publicly. These are the young people who need quiet and focused moments of sincere praise. Our knowledge of individuals at the Dixie helps us to make informed choices about how best to motivate and encourage them.
In presentation assemblies in the Senior School we go to great lengths to praise expected attitudes and behaviours of students. Whether it is involvement in co-curricular activities, initiative shown through posting to the Ashworth Board, challenging school rules through attendance at the Student Council or even making an appointment with the Headmaster to take him to task on school recycling – where there is outstanding effort or contribution, this is acknowledged from the stage. Where our brilliant Sixth Form lead by example, this is highlighted – a recent example was the latest of the ‘Inspire Through Sport’ assemblies at the Junior School. Eleanor’s presentation, just like Jared’s, Dan’s and Chloe’s before her was inspirational in every sense of the word – she put herself out of her comfort zone and learned new skills – in front of an audience very few are brave enough to engage!
Dixie’s core values are reinforced through these assemblies and individual success and endeavour applauded – with a focus on the process and progress, not just the outcome. The da Vinci and Medici schemes have strengthened the process of acknowledgement and praise in school and have provided a clear framework within which students are now even starting to nominate each other – recognising and praising. Our approach also helps young people to learn to accept praise, so vital to self worth; too often people excuse and dismiss praise to their own detriment.
It is of course not just students who can benefit from considered use of praise, not just young people who thrive on acknowledgement; we should all consider using the power of praise more in our daily lives, to the benefit of all around us.