No “Good Job” Labels

Maria Montessori understood the importance of earned praise a century ago, yet handing out empty compliments in an effort to bolster self esteem persists in children’s lives.  Some children are at risk of becoming compliment junkies as they wait for someone to recognize their work and pin on the “good job” label.  This empty praise not only encourages children to seek approval outside themselves, expect immediate extrinsic reinforcement, and respond to unearned rewards, it may actually inhibit some children to take risks.  If children perceive that they need approval from others, they might think it more safe to rest on their laurels and not risk compromising their status.  Some children may perform at mediocre standards because outside praise is constant regardless of effort.

As Montessori advocated, the real motivation to reach high levels of performance comes from within.  Observers may take interest in the products children create; they may make observations or ask questions.  Children’s real incentive to try ever-challenging tasks, however, comes from the quiet sense of satisfaction that the goal was achieved and a new goal identified.  It comes from taking pride in one’s environment, and being part of a community of learners, dreamers, achievers.  Intrinsic rewards provide children with the wonderful sense of control over their lives and the desire to keep trying because they experience the personal joy identifying and reaching their goals.  Hence, Dancing Moose teachers do not quickly turn to the “good job” label, but the encouragement to “keep working and doing your best” is an ethic that we all stand by.

Every Child a Shining Star

One of the most important things we can support in our Dancing Moose children is a positive self esteem.  Teachers accomplish this important goal in a number of ways.  First, they create a safe environment where children do not fear that they will “get it wrong.”  Children have ample opportunity to try something and then try it again.  Many lessons are self correcting, and teachers understand the importance of allowing children to take risks without fear of failure.  Second, teachers listen to children.  They take interest in the things that interest children.  As a result, children know that teachers care about them.  Teachers also encourage children to express themselves in individual and group settings, supporting children’s recognition that their ideas are interesting and important.  Third, and perhaps most important, children can predict their environment.  They know that their teachers will be well prepared with interesting activities; they will maintain consistent, high expectations that meet the developmental needs of every child; and they will be calm and patient each and every day.  These are some of the wonderful outcomes derived from dedicated and capable teachers who work with small teacher-to-student ratios.  All of us at Dancing Moose recognize that each child should feel great about themselves every day, realizing that they are shining stars and valuable members of the Dancing Moose community.