Encouraging the Heart for Teachers – Part 2

Posted by Mercy Alarid, With 4 Comments, Category: Leadership, Tags: , , , ,

In their book, Encouraging the Heart, Kouzes and Possner list SEVEN ESSENTIALS OF ENCOURAGING:

  1. Set clear standards
  2. Expect the best
  3. Pay attention
  4. Personalize Recognition
  5. Tell the Story
  6. Celebrate Together
  7. Set the Example

Because of time constraints, I want to focus on two of those essentials in this blog posting:

  1. Set clear standards
  2. Pay attention


In January, 2010 I taught a class on Curriculum Design to a group of 28 students. One of my jobs was to visit my students in the centers they worked in and observe their teaching for 30 minutes. In four months I visited centers all over the city. Some were in areas that I knew like the palm of my hand, and yet others were in areas I had never been to before. But I had a great ally! My GPS device. I would simply type in the address of the center, and I would leave my house. Step by step it would tell me where to turn, what to do, until I reached my destination. My GPS system took the stress out of navigating the city.

Children have enough vagueness and stress to deal with at home. In order to create a culture of celebration in the classroom, we must make our standards and goals crystal clear to them. These standards can’t be just any standards - they have to be inspirational and bring out the best in our kids.

They have to be SMART standards: Specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound.

Ask yourself – what’s my vision for this class? What strategy are we going to use? What is required of every individual? And find creative ways to communicate the answers to these questions to your children. POST YOUR VALUES IN VISIBLE PLACES.

Another way of communicating clear standards is by celebrating children who actually reach them!

When a child reaches one of your goals in a big or small way, recognize him for his accomplishment. By doing that publicly, you are sending a clear message to the rest of the children: ‘This is what’s important around here. This is what we value.’ Kids will clearly understand the standards they must live up to.

EXCEPTIONAL ASSIGNMENTS AT CNM, I am careful to go through the goals and objectives of every class throughout the semester. But somehow as soon as I REFER to the syllabus, students immediately lose focus and get overwhelmed, so I take a different approach.

Not every time, but when someone’s assignment is exceptional and has met a class objective or one of my values, I give them more that 100% and make sure everyone knows about it. I pass out the homework and keep the exceptional ones for the very end and tell everyone they need to look at this assignment if they want to know how to get an A in my class. I talk about their grammar, their organization, their attention to detail and their mastery of the content.

Every single time I have done this, I notice that not only does this inspire others to do their best, but the person who gets recognized never goes below that benchmark he/she set!

Take a minute now and answer this question:

What are the standards/values that I believe should guide my daily decisions and actions and those of the children I teach? How do I let children know when they have succeeded at attaining those standards?

  1. 2. Pay Attention

How many of you feel like you do not have enough hours in the day to do your job?

I feel the same way on Sundays! You see, besides my job as an instructor at CNM, I also pastor Passion Church alongside my husband. We are what is called a ‘PORTABLE’ church. We meet at a local high school and every Sunday we transform the performing arts center into our church, complete with a full band, hospitality center and yes, children’s classrooms. Every Sunday, there are emergencies to take care of, volunteers that never make it, supplies that are forgotten at home, and difficulties to overcome wherever I go.

Recently, as usual, I was making my rounds during set-up time trying to make sure that the children’s classrooms were being set up properly. I walked into the infant area and there kneeling on the floor was this 14-year old. She was busy putting together the flooring we provide for the kids to crawl on. I was surprised because I did not think she was on setup duty, so I asked, ‘Lilly, are you in set-up duty?’ ‘No, she replied, but I want to help.’ It floored me! And of course, I thanked her profusely and let her know how much it meant to me that she would do this without being asked.

See, you don’t have to set aside time to PAY attention to people doing the right things at your centers. You simply have to PAY attention as you do your job. I could have missed an opportunity to see real servanthood at work if I had not walked into that classroom, and most importantly, if I hadn’t been curious about her being there.

Later that morning, I made sure everyone knew what had happened earlier and how grateful I was for Lilly and for people like her in our church who served and loved serving.

Psychologist Julius Segal, in looking at what helps children overcome adversity, wrote that "one factor turns out to be the presence in their lives of a charismatic adult -- a person from whom they gather strength. And in a surprising number of cases, that person turns out to be a teacher."

Similarly, a Massachusetts Department of Education report about at-risk students noted, "Possible the most critical element to success within school is a student developing a close and nurturing relationship with at least one caring adult. Students need to feel that there is someone within school whom they know, to whom they can turn, and who will act as an advocate for them."

So the next time you are doing your rounds – be CURIOUS, pay attention and you will marvel at what you find!

Don’t be so set on catching people doing the wrong thing – focus on those doing the right thing and reward them!

Take a notebook to recess duty and write down instances of your kids doing the right things. Include as many details as possible and make time during your class time to recognize that person privatel or publicly.

Take note of the gifts your children appreciate. Some likle public recognition, others like private commendation. Some like certificates, others like toys, etc.

The next time you hear a student talk about himself, listen with your eyes and heart as well as with your ears.

Ask the kids how you’re doing at encouraging them on a daily basis. This is scary but very helpful.

Take a minute and answer this question:

How specifically do you pay attention to the positive things your students are accomplishing?

Author Profile

Mercy Alarid
Mercy Alarid is the Creative Arts Pastor of Passion Church. Mercy has a Master's degree in Education. Mercy is a member of the faculty of Central New Mexico Community College, where she is an instructor in the Education department. Mercy has been married to Brian for 17 years and they reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico with their 3 children: Chloe, Colin, and Lauren.
  1. Date: September 29, 2011
    Author: Krista

    i agree with your idea of rewarding them when they do right. if you are always putting them down, then you will not get positive results.

  2. Date: September 29, 2011
    Author: Ambrielle Lopez

    I thought this blog was full of great information. My mom is a teacher and applies these same strategies with her students and it works wonders. I've always been a big believer in rewarding good behavior rather than punishing the bad behavior. It is human nature to do things to benefit oneself even if that benefit is simply being praised. To do it in a public manner also makes it that much more effective in getting the rest of the students to do what you want them to do without actually telling them to. This also leads to higher self esteen within the student, which, like you said, motivates them to never fall below the bar they've set.

  3. Date: September 29, 2011
    Author: Aimee

    You are very right about making sure what kind of reward each child prefers before acting upon it. My little sister is quite shy so she absolutely despises the recognition and actually cries from embaressment if its publicly done.

  4. Date: September 29, 2011
    Author: Eva Stewart

    I agree with you about letting someone know how helpful they are, or how good of a job they did during circle time, with their colors, shapes. I try to let my class know proud I am of them, when they are being helpful, especially individuals that have a hard time following directions. I try to catch them when they are doing something or anything and just say their name, and tell them how proud I am that they are using their spoon, or how nice they are playing with their car. Instead of just dwelling on the negetive.


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