Remember when you were in grade school and the teacher would put a stamp on your paper that read “Nice work” or “Keep trying”? Or, if you did really well, she would put a gold star near your name! Brings back some good memories, doesn’t it?
You would think high school kids would think this kind of thing is too immature. However, they love it! Now, I don’t do this every time I grade something because I usually have 150 papers to grade and placing stickers on a paper or stamping them takes time. Although, I have cheated and let my children do it for me. One student had 15 stickers and a dozen stamps on her paper. Four year-olds tend to get a little sticker-and-stamp happy.
Last night I hastily drew smiley-faces on papers. When I returned the graded work to the students, I heard a few giggles and comments:
“Is this a smiley-face or is he constipated?”
“Mine looks like he has no mouth and a double chin.”
“This one has an eye outside of his head!”
In my defense, I lost my artistic ability in kindergarten. Tragically, I had chicken pox and my mom actually made me miss school for a week. Not just any week! It was the week we learned how to draw a smiling person with fingers. Mrs. Erke never took the time to let me make up drawing. Perhaps she was jealous of my earlier abilities with houses and trees in art class. Perhaps she was just mean. Come to think of it, one day I mentioned to the class that I missed Carl, who had moved away a few months earlier. She reprimanded me for being off task: ” We all miss him. But, it’s time to paste the pictures to the correct words on the worksheet. And, Bart, please stop eating the paste.” See, she was mean. What kind of teacher keeps a child from eating? Everyone knows you learn better on a full stomach.
Thus, today, my drawings of people resemble Picasso’s self-portrait with mittens on. It is miraculous that I have achieved any success in life.
Of course I am joking. About Mrs. Erke … not my artistic ability. She was wonderful and I can’t draw well. Nonetheless, the fact that students noticed the smiley-face means something.
It seems teenagers want cheerleaders. They want supportive teachers and parents. A “good job,” or “I can tell you put a lot of effort into this essay” can help a student work harder next time. For example, I had a student, Scott, a few years back. He thought he was a terrible writer. He saw a “B” grade as a bright neon sign flashing “Failure.” It took positive comments on what he did well to give him confidence. He realized that all writers make errors, especially novices who are constantly taking risks with word choice and sentence structure. Gold stars, stickers, and smiley faces placed near his successful risk taking in writing made him challenge himself more.
By the end of the year he was getting his coveted “A” on all of his work. He learned how to focus on what he did correctly. Sometimes we all need a reminder.