IT was my late mother some years ago who sent me this meaningful piece, maybe remembering how I was so terrible at mathematics in school. A story about how just one word of praise helped a shy student break through a mental block.
Eric, like me never very confident in school, had a particular dread of mathematics. A mental block, one of the school counsellors had told him. Besides that, Eric’s teacher was unsympathetic.
For the rest of the year she hounded him with ceaseless makeup assignments. When his mental block prevented his progress in fractions, she would thunder at him in front of the class, “I don’t care for your excuses! You’d better straighten up!’ Then came the remarkable moment. It happened in the middle of his ninth grade English class. To this day, some twenty-five years later, Eric still lights up as he recalls the moment.
The fifth period class had been yawning through his teacher’s attempts to spark discussion about a Mark Twain story. At some point in the lecture, something clicked in Eric’s mind. It suddenly seemed like he understood something Twain had been driving at. Eric raised his hand and ventured an observation.
That led to the moment when his teacher looked straight into Eric’s eyes, beamed with pleasure, and said, why Eric…that was very perceptive of you! Perceptive. Perceptive? Perceptive!
The Word That Made a Difference. The word echoed in Eric’s thoughts for the rest of the day and then for the rest of his life. Perceptive? Me? Well, yeah. I guess that was perceptive.
Maybe I am perceptive. One word, one little positive word dropped at the right moment somehow tipped the balance in a teenager’s view of himself and possibly changed the course of his life, even though he still can’t multiply fractions!!Eric went on to pursue a career in journalism and eventually became a book editor, working successfully with some of the top authors in America. Many teachers are well aware how praise motivates children.
One teacher said she praised each student in her third grade class every day, without exception. Her students were the most motivated, encouraged, and enthusiastic in school.
But perhaps the greatest honour of any teacher is seeing a child’s eyes light up when they discover something new about themselves and about the world around them. The day when they hear from you, a word that makes a difference..!
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