Many teachers agree on the importance of reward in the form of verbal praise as a basic technique. However, what often gets forgotten is that how the words are spoken can be more important than the words themselves. Your tone of voice and the energy behind your words is vitally important.
So how does one put energy behind words? The test is: how do you feel after saying the words? If you feel positive, heart-centred, relaxed and calm, thumbs up! If you feel angry, resentful, fearful or disappointed, don’t expect good results.
Speaking with a positive energy doesn’t mean ignoring all ‘bad’ behaviour and never disciplining your pupils. Discipline and clear boundaries are of course important too. What it does mean is communicating from a positive place far more than you communicate from a negative place. Every opportunity to praise and demonstrate approval, sound supportive and express gratitude for every child’s efforts should be taken and relished.
Body language can have energy behind it too and it’s a useful communication tool. There are, in fact, many tools at your disposal that can be used to demonstrate your approval and help raise pupils’ self-esteem. You could give them a gentle pat on the back to let them know they’ve done well. If they’re struggling, you could mention something praiseworthy you recall they did in the past or something that you expect they’ll be good at in the future. A thumbs up says ‘well done’. A simple glance, a smile, a nod or a wink can be all it takes to let them know you’re on their side and you approve of them.
It’s also important that you take care to express yourself thoroughly and completely. This means giving your full awareness and focussed attention to your words or actions. Take the time to actually look the pupil in the eyes and convey the positive energy with full purpose, presence, confidence and commitment. You can speak with authority and compassion at the same time. If you’re stressed or in a rush and you’re making a passing comment that you’re only half sure of, with one eye on something else, don’t expect to be fully listened to.
In summary, be prepared to make a conscious effort to be aware of your tone and your feelings and take responsibility for the outcome of your interactions. You should see positive results fairly instantly.