Whether you are a teacher, a mentor, or a parent, your main job is to guide the students to become better individuals through a proper method of teaching. The challenge to teaching is to determine the amount of time for giving accolades to students’ accomplishments and disciplining them with poor decisions.
But, which one matters more? Should the emphasis be more on praising positive actions or condemning negative behaviors?
Personally, teaching should revolve around more on fixing negative actions because it is through these negative actions that the students can improve in their academics and personality. I believe in the merit of constructive criticism, a remark that enables students to see the fallacy in their reasoning and develop a mindset for proper actions in the future following self-reflection.
Suppose that a student was caught cheating on an exam. Constructive criticism here would amend the negative actions by explaining why the action was wrong and what would be the ramification of such actions out in the real society. Teaching should not just point out that cheating led to failure in that assignment, but that such behavior is unacceptable and should not be repeated.
Another reason for rejecting the notion of putting emphasis in positive actions comes from hubris. As demonstrated in many Shakespearean tragedies, hubris, or excessive confidence on the individual, can lead to downfall of many people. When a teacher congratulates students too often, they start to develop this false sense of security that they are the best students in the society.
While it may be true that they deserved such praises from hard work, it is still important to leave certain space to make them realize that there are other students who work as hard or even more than they do. Such realization is not always concentrated in the current school system, and as a result, it explains why graduates of colleges and universities are frequently confused on not having obtained a job despite earning an “average” grade in their coursework.
It is critical, however, that while I do believe in emphasizing negative actions more than positive actions, I certainly do not want to reject the positive actions. There should be a balance here in that if the student receives only feedbacks from negative actions, then he or she can become depressed and develop more serious problems.
Recently, there was an article from the Wall Street Journal about an Asian parent who focused only on fixing the negative actions of her children and was castigated by other critics for this radical didactic approach. I certainly do not endorse such type of extreme behavior and see the necessity in cheering students when they do accomplish something from their hard efforts.
Hence, some people may propose counterarguments that it is only through praises and confidence developments that students can become independent and explore their creativity. Certainly, this argument is worthy of some merits, but it is based on inaccurate assumptions. They lead people to believe that most students have the capability to develop and improve solely based on confidence. This is not true; in fact, many students usually become complacent quite easily unless their teachers or parents suggest for improvements.
In a way, this is due to how young students develop their opinions through the responses of those around them. For instance, a child who is raised by Democratic parents is more likely to develop political beliefs of Democrats until they are in the later stage of their life that they actually can assess the political alignment of their beliefs. So, for most individuals, teaching should focus not just on maintaining confidences of students, but on fixing negative actions to foster critical thinking and prevent any mistake they could make in the future.