Rarely do I find myself watching reality television, but last night I was caught up watching, “Undercover Boss” on CBS and left the closing credits with some gripping reminders of how important and powerful recognizing students can be. The episode centered around Chris McCann, President of 1-800-Flowers and his interactions with loyal, long-time employees of four different local stores. A summary of the show can be found here.
It is safe to say that many classrooms in our nation’s schools are still operated in a top-down, teacher driven fashion that has hierarchical parallels to the business structure of many corporations. We all at some point in the day utilize on our bestowed educator powers as authoritative figures and those to be modeled and admired. while watching McCann reveal his true identity, followed by heaping great praise on his 1-800-Flowers ground troops, I was (admittedly) gripped by their response to his positive feedback. They were stunned, unable to articulate their appreciation in words, instead reduced to wide, beaming smiles and salty, but nevertheless sweet tears.
Sometimes when giving students private, positive feedback I am surprised by how uncomfortable they become or shocked they are, seemingly unable to gracefully receive thoughtfully worded praise. Maybe it’s the fact that our students are so focused on the never ending red ink numbers and letters that they forget what it means to be truly commended. Or maybe it just boils down to human nature and the importance of establishing empathetic connections with fellow man and woman. Whatever the reason, “Undercover Boss” reminded me of the importance in taking time out from the daily classroom minutiae to give honest, positive feedback that builds stronger bonds and relationships between our students. Just as many of the lower-level employees left McCann’s office glowing, so too do our students when we take the time to recognize them as individuals and show them what they are doing really matters. This positive aura can lead to so many great things down the road ranging from a renewed student confidence in theirselves to better classroom management and respect.
Oh, and on the subject of empathy, shop manager of the top grossing retail location, “Dee” is a walking example of the importance of empathy and building relationships through genuine care… but that’s an entirely separate blog post for another day!