Thursday, December 8, 2011

I've Been Reflecting Again

Don't you love blog posts that start with a disclaimer? Well, this one does and here it is. This post is not intended to bash any group, award, or fellow blogger. The more I thought about this, the more I felt I needed to write about it (and the more doubts I had about writing it). Now that I have you wondering what's coming, let's get to it.

I've been reading a rash of posts about the short lists for the Edublog awards. I've voted for some of the great blogs in the running. I'd encourage you to head over there and vote yourself (after finishing this post!). Some of my closest blog friends are nominated...and all are worthy contenders. I am so excited that many early childhood bloggers are included among the lists. And yet...I've been feeling a little envious and a little left out.

Now...this post is also not a veiled (or not so veiled) attempt to garner compliments or praise...or criticism or advice. I'm not trying to get people to tell me great things (or not so great) about my blog. I don't blog for awards or for ego-building. I blog for the community and for the interaction with other people interested in young children and helping them learn and grow, to share ideas and to learn.

But those feelings of doubt and being left out are there under the surface. As I thought about my own feelings, I began to reflect on preschoolers and classrooms. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) After all, I'm a grown adult with a range of experiences and a (somewhat) mature brain that can understand what's happening. What about young kids who don't have these things yet?

Do we as teachers create similar feelings in kids? Do we, by uplifting some, push down others? Lots of issues are tied up in these things...extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation, giving everyone an award for fairness, recognizing true achievement, and so forth. I'm not trying to start those debates. I'm just thinking and reflecting.

I've chosen not to give stickers/trinkets/other things to reinforce behavior or reward work. I try to offer words of encouragement rather than praise, and lead kids to talk about what they are doing rather than talk about it myself. I want kids to be excited about what they've done and what they've accomplished, regardless of what other kids can do or how adults may value it. Building a tall tower, painting every square inch of the paper, printing a new word—all of these can be great accomplishments. All involve perseverance and concentration. All are worthy goals to undertake.

Encourage kids. Ask them to tell you what they're doing. Listen to their words...and maybe what lies underneath. Watch kids. But don't save them. Offer kids interesting materials and interesting activities. Allow them to use their own ideas. Think about ways to encourage and uplift...without adding to the doubts they may already have about themselves and their abilities.

And allow me to say to each of my blog friends - I so appreciate your words. Daily I am inspired by what you write. Sometimes I discover a new idea. Sometimes I find an old one rekindled. But always I am amazed by the men and women who care for kids and want to help them learn and grow. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey...and thank you for joining me on mine.

(I almost deleted this post a couple of times. I thought maybe I was just whining. Well, here it is.)


  1. Thank you for not deleting, thank you for being honest (it is almost like I could have writteh this but did not have the clarity of thought.) I have these envious feelings swirling around too. I think it takes us back to our teen years when we thought others were more popular than us. Also i am always against awards, rewards etc with preschoolers. I have had to put my blinkers on and like you realize why I post. Off to work now where the children will direct their play and no one will tell them their mud pie, game or art work is best, or even better!

  2. So glad you didn't push delete Scott. I've been thinking about this too. I'm so over the moon to be nominated for an award that it has got me to wondering why. I, like you, felt a bit left out last year and was wondering what I was doing wrong or what I could do differently. Then I decided that the only thing to do was to keep being me and blogging in the only way I know how. This year I am thrilled to be nominated, but more thrilled by the lovely nomination posts by folks I admire and respect enormously like Tom and Donna, Sherry and Juliet. Blogging takes time, committment and although I do it for fun and selfish reasons it is nice to know that all the effort isn't for nought. I teach at a progressive school which is anti-competition in any form. We don't have rewards, awards or tests of any kind. So it does feel kinda strange to be so chuffed to be up for an award - maybe I am a product on my own schooling. Have you read what Alfie Kohn says about rewards?

  3. Great post, Scott. The feelings are yours and it could have been all about you, but you took a much broader view. There are good studies that show that if you reward children for what they like to do, their motivation changes so they no longer do it unless they are rewarded. Recognition is ok and even good if it aligns with the assessment of our own work. It then becomes a validation. The blog awards I think are ok because it does showcase some of the really good work in our field that is out there for more to see. Let's just hope that those great bloggers don't loose their motivation and start looking for those extrinsic rewards. In the meantime, we will keep chugging along doing some good reflection.

  4. Scott, I am also glad you didn't hit delete. For me, I think the reward was the nomination post itself. I was over the moon to be nominated by peers that I think so highly of.

    I just want to put it out there, Scott, that you DO make a difference. Your writing REALLY inspires me to reflect on my practices. I read and interact with quite a number of blogs out here, but yours is one of the few that stick with me long after I've finished reading the posts. I can't quite verbalize the impact you have, I guess my nomination of your "most influential post" was my feeble attempt at doing so. Please don't feel "lesser" in any way, just because someone didn't put you on the "short list". Your contribution to our community is definitely valuable and DEFINITELY matters. A lot.

  5. Glad you didn't delete! This is honest and true and shows how you reflect on the way this type of thing makes children feel! I love your blog! I agree with Ayn- everyone has something unique and special to offer! I can't imagine NOT reading your blog posts! I always come away with a new way to reflect on my own teaching and a new way to reflect on the children's learning! (and, besides, like others have said, don't think you're the only one! I had to take a few moments to remind myself why I started my own blog- as I had a few moments of feeling this same way!)

  6. Yes, yes, yes. So true. I remember feeling this for my kids when they did not get nominated for the kid of the week awards in primary school.
    You are so right. Picking one winner out of a class of 30 creates 29 losers.
    Not getting picked hurts.

  7. Thanks for all the comments. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has these feelings from time to time. I was so happy to be nominated by blog friends I respect (like you Ayn!). But I still had that "why not me" feeling when the short list came out. But I have been thinking about the classroom and ways to communicate with it's been a reflecting experience. And that can help me.

    (And, Jenny, I'm so excited you are in the running this year!)

  8. Scott, THANK YOU so much for airing your thoughts here. I was starting to think I was the only person feeling unsettled by the way EduBlog etc was filling my feed, and maybe this feeling made me a 'not nice' person who was resenting others' success.

    And it's not just the vague feeling that maybe, if you're not mentioned or shortlisted, your work isn't valued or valuable (which I know is not true for me, any more than it is for you- but yes, you're right, we should note that thought and relate it to the children we try so hard to nurture). For me it's more a feeling that there's something entirely unhealthy about the whole process of repeatedly voting for the same blogs every day, as though by skewing the results through this misplaced act of loyalty we're saying something about the value of each blogger's work and contributing something to the body of knowledge.

    What does that mean, that 'vote for me every day' stuff? How does sitting at a computer repeatedly clicking a voting button make us better carers and educators? Isn't there something more worthwhile we could be doing?

    I asked the question on my personal FB page and nobody responded. Perhaps I hit a nerve. Blogging about early childhood surely is not meant to be a popularity contest and a time-waster; that's not why I'm here, and I know for a fact that that's not why you're here either, nor so many of my other personal compulsory-every-day-every-post-must-read bloggers.

    I Just Don't Get It. Thank you so much for your openness and honesty, which I value beyond price or prize.

  9. This is a great post, Scott, and I have struggled with the very same feelings this week. I better just leave it at that, but your post was a blessing for me to read. Thank you!

  10. Thanks, Scott, and glad you didn't erase the post : )

    I'm glad you wrote about this because I notice that certain children are more sensitive to these things. I find myself in my worst moments offering praise to one child in order to manipulate another child into stopping a behavior. I'm drawing up on their need for extrinsic encouragement when it totally conflicts with my philosophy.

    I will work on this more and more, and thank you for prompting my growth with this post : )