Words and Growing Up
As for any 5-year-old, it was not uncommon for me to forget my homework in preschool; however, this was strongly disliked by my teacher, and she made sure to let me know how she felt. During the lecture on how rodents often create extensive damage to the crops, my teacher said, “Aleksandra is an example of the rodent in our class, she is useful for nothing, not even a simple schoolwork.” Not only that this sentence made me cry after school, but it also stuck with me until this day. Memory of this event has created the feeling of incompetence in the school settings despite my great academic scores.
After completing my undergraduate studies, I worked in pre-school and elementary school myself. Being aware of the effect prize and punishment have on learning, I continually praised a student with Autism in his attempts to learn how to play the violin. At the end of the school year student’s mom came to see me and notify me that the student was applying for prestigious music school, and “his teacher (me) was his motivation”. At that point I knew that nothing is more powerful than a positive word.
These are just some examples of everyday situations that happen in all schools around the globe. The impact that a teacher can have on the developing brain of a student can be detrimental; therefore, choosing the right teacher for your child can be crucial for your child’s emotional wellbeing. Statistics say that #1 reason children hate school is punishment and pressure from parents and teachers. According to The Jordan Times, “An 18 percent of the students in Jordan reported verbal violence in schools over the period of 2015-2016…”
How scary is this information combined with the number of school dropouts and the increasing suicide rates?
The statistics show that 1.2 million students dropout of high school in the United States every year, which equates to 25% of freshmen failing to graduate high school.Another statistic shows that suicide is the second leading cause of death among the teenagers, with it’s increasing rates reaching 17.2 % in 2018.
On the bright side positive language and praise can turn around students’ lives for the best. Just like I elevated my student’s self-esteem, many students could prosper from the verbal praise, often called positive reinforcement. A study published in the Journal of Music Teacher Education, suggests that students who received praise for effort more often selected learning goals and reported a higher attitude toward task persistence. An example of a constructive teacher who uses positive reinforcement is depicted in the movie Freedom Writers.
Verbal praise (positive reinforcement) was initially used in Special Education classrooms, as part of Applied Behavior Analysis - a scientific approach to learning, to help children with learning difficulties increase self-esteem and motivation. Upon yielding incredible results it was adopted by many private and public schools across the Western hemisphere. I myself have worked with Applied Behavior Analysis, and the verbal praise has done miracles to my students’ lives.
So, what is it that we can do today to change underuse of positive vocabulary in schools and around our children?
I believe that education is the key. Whether you are a parent or a teacher, being informed about the impact of language on a child's development is necessary. As a parent you are responsible for finding the best teacher for your child. This can be done through simple conversation with the teacher about the teaching methods he/she uses.
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