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The Truth About Recognizing Accomplishments in the Classroom

It's human nature to doubt our work, our accomplishments, and even ourselves at times. Whether you're 10 years old or 45 years old, we all appreciate a "good job", a high five, or a simple "thank you" when we feel as though we've accomplished something. In fact, this might energize us to chase that feeling over and over again!

Sharing our accomplishments with others is a great way to connect positively and form relationships that can help inspire, motivate, and push one another to be better than we were before. But how does this translate to the classroom? Should we praise our students for doing what's expected of them?

What is Positive Reinforcement?

The act of recognizing a student's accomplishments is otherwise known as positive reinforcement. Positive Reinforcement is defined as a type of behavioral management that focuses on rewarding somebody when they do well, rather than punishing somebody when they do something bad. The idea is that our students will respond in a positive manner and will duplicate the good behavior until that behavior becomes second nature. It can be all too easy to forget that the good behavior presented by our students deserves our attention; doing so could actually have a positive effect on others in the classroom!

In fact, studies show that negative reinforcement, aka taking something away in response to bad behavior, is effective in the short term. However, positive reinforcement is a much better long-term strategy in strengthening young students' desirable behavior, both at home and at school.

Examples of Positive Reinforcement

We know that actively using positive reinforcement in the classroom can prove difficult at times. Teachers have a lot on their plate and reminding yourself to take that extra step toward this style of behavior management can feel overwhelming. But it's actually much simpler than you might think. Once it's incorporated into your day to day, it might surprise you how naturally it comes to you.  

For example, if you ask all your students to gather their items and clean up their desks, it might be your first instinct to call out the students who are not following instructions, in order to correct their behavior. When approaching behavior management through positive reinforcement, you would point out the students who are doing what you asked and praise them.  

For instance, your instinct might be to say something like, "Jack, you are not doing what I asked! You need to clean up your desk like the other students." Instead, you would say, "Jordan, thank you so much for doing what I asked! Your desk is organized, and you're a great example to the other students!"  

The public and excited praise from their teacher should be just enough to nudge the other students into doing what they're supposed to do, in order to receive the same reaction from you.  

The Rules of Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement may be a new concept to you, or maybe you want to be more active in this style of classroom management. Either way, we recommend implementing a few of these general guidelines when considering this style of instruction.  

1. Always be consistent
2. Be immediate in your reinforcement
3. Be motivational
4. Treat every student equally
5. The positive should outweigh the negative 

The golden rule of reinforcement can be found as rule #5 in the list above. No matter how you decide to structure your classroom, always try to take time out of your day to be positive and recognize the accomplishments of every student! For some, this might be the only positive praise they hear all day.  

Cherokee County Educational Foundation would like to take moment to say thank you to every teacher, educator, staff, teacher's assistant, and parent for showing up to give the best to your students, every single day. Our community is so proud of you!  

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