3 Keys to Effective Teacher Affirmation

In a recent blog post called “Improved Student Performance Through Teacher Affirmation” we established that a principal affirming a teacher can have a positive effect on student performance. Because teachers are the most important school-related factor in student performance, and everyone works harder and more effectively when they are happy and comfortable, principals should affirm their teachers often. In this post I will get even more specific by giving you 3 keys to effective teacher affirmation that you should employ in your school immediately.

  1. Be Honest

    • Teachers can smell a phony affirmation a mile away, and it will certainly come off phony if you pay your teacher a dishonest compliment. For example, if you haven’t spent a lot of time in the teacher’s classroom, but you compliment her on her classroom management abilities, it will seem made up. Instead, find something real and true that the teacher does well, and honestly affirm the teacher about that thing. You should be able to find at least a few positive things to say about every teacher in your building. Over time, as you increase the number of positive interactions you have with your teachers, you will find more and more positive things to say about them.

  2. Be Specific

    • As a component of honesty, an affirmation is most effective when it is specific to that teacher. General affirmations are good too, but specific affirmations are even better. If you compliment the teacher on something he or she did well, it will go a long way to showing that you are paying attention to his or her quality work.

    • Not only should you be specific with the teacher, you should also be specific with the affirmation itself. Compare these affirmations:

      • Good job Mr. Thomas, thank you for your hard work!

      This affirmation, though it may be true and is specific to the teacher, does not specify what Mr. Thomas did that you appreciate.

      • Mr. Thomas, your work with showing students how to compute fractions has been excellent! Thank you for the important work that you are doing!

      This affirmation is better. It includes both a specific teacher and a specific task that the teacher has done well. But it can still be improved upon even more.

      • Mr. Thomas, as you know, our math test scores have been down, especially in the area of fractions. But I see the focus and attention you are giving to fractions in your pre-algebra class, and as a result student scores have improved in that area. The work you are doing is helping your students specifically and the school as a whole!

      This affirmation outlines in more detail how the teacher’s work is making his students specifically and the school in general better. But remember to be honest! If you can’t honestly give this level of detail, then don’t! However, I recommend you challenge yourself to give affirmations in the form off descriptive feedback, as in the third example.

  3. Spread the Love

    • Do not limit your affirmations to the teachers you like the best. In fact, you need to make it a point to affirm teachers that you don’t get along with. It is highly unlikely that there is a single teacher in your building who doesn’t do anything well. Indeed, all of your teachers are trained professionals who have some level of expertise and concern for their students. As the instructional leader on your campus, part of your job is figuring out each teacher’s areas of strength and leveraging those strengths to help students succeed. So, spread the love and honesty affirm all of your teachers, only the ones who obviously respond well to your leadership style.

Affirmation can be the lifeblood fo a healthy school environment in which teachers are motivated and productive, and students are growing. Use these tips to help you affirm your teachers more effectively and improve teacher and student performance in your school!