A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from one of my high school teachers who had recently retired. He had found some of my old work and decided to reach out.
I was ecstatic.
Within a couple of e-mails, nostalgia took over. I was back in my high school days: worried about my math grade, wondering if I was left off the basketball roster on purpose, and pouring my heart into every English assignment.
My high school English teacher, despite my grammatical errors, always recognized the heart behind my assignments and encouraged my use of words. He said words had power, and we needed to learn to use them well.
He didn’t just do this for me, but he did it for all the students in his classes.
Through Jolly Ranchers and grocery-bought doughnuts, he motivated students. He recognized strengths. He taught material that would delight us. But one of the biggest things he did was encourage our character.
As I look back on my high school days, I know that his approval of my writing confirmed how my parents had always encouraged me. This influenced my college major and later my own step into teaching.
What a difference encouragement can make!
I have seen the difference encouragement can make in my son, as well. My active six year old never had much time for art. He would rather use his big motor skills of running, jumping, and climbing than creating or coloring artwork.
Then one day, early in the school year, I noticed a change in him. He reached for coloring sheets and made sure his colored pencils were sharp. Instead of his usual scribbles to get his homework done quickly, he colored within the lines, even blending colors. I was impressed. I asked him why he was working so hard.
“My teacher told me how nice I was doing, so now I work diligently every time,” he said.
When I mentioned it to his teacher during a conference, she couldn’t remember the specific compliment. “We use the word diligent often in class, and I have noticed a change in his work. But I can’t recall that exact interaction.”
Regardless, that small interaction changed my son’s whole perspective.
Be the Encourager.
I like the quote from writing teacher and author Julia Cameron: “As a writing teacher, it is my experience that if I praise a student’s strengths, the weaknesses eventually fall away.” (The Right to Write)
This, of course, was written about teaching writing, but what if it was applied to how we parent?
As parents, we have a front-row seat to our kids’ growth. We can be the voice that centers and grounds. As we see the sprouts of character in our children, can we encourage them to grow?
I saw how hard you worked on that math assignment even when it was challenging for you. I’m proud of you!
Wow! Your picture is so creative! I love how you come up with these ideas!
I noticed how you checked on your friend after he fell. That was so kind of you. You are a good friend.
As Omaha Mom often says: if we want to see change in the world, let’s start at home.
& Trying new things.
Perhaps like me, you also had a teacher, parent, or coach who encouraged you. Now it’s our turn to be the encourager.
It could make all the difference.