Sunday, October 13, 2013

Good Job Talking Points


This article is something I feel I owe immediate gratification to. Partly because I feel I was raised on this system of thoughtless convenience. It's been simply enlightening, in terms of my own life and the behavior of a few of my service learning students.  "Good Job!" was probably the phrase my mother uttered to me more than any other. Since moving out, my direction, my goals and my motivation just seem so depressingly distant and foggy. I can't help but believe that never being pushed to find satisfaction within my own accomplishments has lead to this.

Within the art class I teach for service learning, there is one student I've been curious about. His ability to absorb a 10 minute set of instructions, and efficiently complete his class objective seems to surpass any other student in the class. When he is done, he helps those around him. Yet, the last two times I've met with the class he's asked for help on his assignment. I'll repeat the teachers instructions and about halfway through he'll begin his assigned work. He'll finish the first step, place his freshly cut paper down on the table, and just look at me with this confused look that reeks of insecurity. It's just now become apparent that his mood and self esteem at that point hinges on the same two words as so many other kids. He doesn't need my help at all, only my approval.

Points to share:

There is a reason so many respond with these monotonous phrases, because it's simple. It has become first nature after anyone mentions an accomplishment to hit the go-to phrase or some other sort of praise. Ditching it won't be easy but it remains obvious that it can't continue. Forms of praise turn children into drones, the alternatives boost self confidence and drive, all things that are directly related to success. When a child is taught to live his leave to please others, what happens when no one is left to please, what does it say about how much you value yourself?


  1. Each of the students you work with has a unique story. This student might ask for help for reasons that are hidden. It is clear that this student is insecure so they might deal with a learning disability, which causes a lack of self esteem in all areas of school. Maybe he or she does not receive support from parents and siblings, so they ask for it at school so they can feel some sense of hope. Its all about reading between the lines as everyone tells a different story.

  2. Hi Nick,

    I like how you connected the article to your experience in your SLP classroom, and how you observed that the particular child is looking for your approval, because you've already seen previously that he is capable on his own. Kids are little people pleasers! :) It's sweet that he wants to know you think he's doing a good job, but this is where Kohn is making the point that we have to modify what we say as reinforcement to kids. For example, you could say "okay, you've got your paper cut out. What do you think we need to do next?" That way you acknowledged what he's accomplished so far, and show support, but without the "good job!" thing. I know will be hard habit for me to break, personally!

    - Jamie