Popular Posts

Monday, October 25, 2010

“Next to a sincere compliment, I think I like a well-deserved and honest rebuke.” ~William Feather

William Feather was successful editor in Cleveland, Ohio. His quote, "Next to a sincere compliment, I think I like a well-deserved and honest rebuke" is one that I think should be explored by people who have the power to influence others. I cannot count the number of times that a teacher has graded my work without sharing with me the reasons behind their opinions. In certain cases, I have received the top grade. Although that is always exciting, sometimes I make comments or connections that I hope the teacher sees as insightful or at least note worthy. On the other hand, there have been times when I have received a failing score with no explanation.


I still remember a 5th grade assignment where my class was required to make an "All About Me Book," consisting of information about our favorite hobbies, vacations, memories, etc. I don't remember what I talked about, but I remember my teacher praising my creativity, I think she even used my book as an example to my classmates. I remember feeling motivated to continue to do the best work I was capable of, because I enjoyed the way my hard work was received by my teacher. Similarly, I remember writing a short story for my sophomore English teacher. I turned in the first draft, confident that it was a quality short story. It was not. Luckily, it was graded only for completion, but more importantly, my teacher took time to give me criticism and compliments to aid in the process of rewriting. He told me to elaborate on imagery, develop the characters, and leave the reader with strong emotions. I remember being frustrated because I couldn't imagine fitting all of those elements into a SHORT story. His constructive criticism showed me HE had faith in my story and that with some reworking it could be something great. This motivated me. Instead of requiring one rewrite, he required many and only graded it when he thought it was our best work. I looked through my records and found the final version of this assignment and one of the first drafts. Even to this day, I smile at the final draft because I was able to learn a lot and submit a final product that I was proud of.

Both of these teachers had something in common: Interest. Interest in communicating with their students, interest in helping students understand the difference between good work and great work, interest in connecting with the student, interest is caring about the student's success. In a large class, I am always motivated by my teachers interest, be it in my assignments, my well-being, or my extracurricular activities, I like knowing that my teacher cares about me, and finds me interesting enough to get to know.

One definition of interest is, to cause a personal concern; induce to participate. Ways that people can show interest are, like William Feather stated, through a sincere compliment or through criticism. If neither of the two is given, what will motivate the student to continue to work hard? For some students, good grades are enough incentive to keep trying hard, but some students need someone to show interest in their work in order to be interested in it themselves.

Personal Story….

When I started my blog, I was excited that people would read my thoughts. However, after posting my second post all I could think of was who will want to read this? What makes my thoughts so important? I am grateful for all of the comments that I got on my blog about The Other Side of Learning; they have motivated me to write each post with care and consideration. Also, knowing that someone is reading what I am writing and more importantly, they care enough to comment on my opinions tells me that what I am writing is worthwhile.

For most students, criticism = mad grade. This article examines the difference between teachers nurturing their students and babying them with too many meaningless compliments. The happy medium for me is my story from above about my sophomore English teacher. When I wasn't afraid of failure or a bad grade, I was more receptive to constructive criticism. I knew that he had my best interest in mind throughout the assignment. I knew that he was interested in helping me understanding how to succeed rather than pointing out all the flaws in my writing. In a world where students are more concerned with grades and teachers are critical of the work their students are submitting, everyone needs to remember where their interests should lie. Teachers should be interested in motivating their students to succeed and they should be interested in finding ways to relate to each and every student (this means they have to show interest in each and every student). Students need to be interested in learning, not the final grade. If both parties stay true to their end of the deal, both sides should walk away feeling accomplished.

Here are some quotes to consider…

"He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help"~Abraham Lincoln

"Before you go and criticize the younger generation, just remember who raised them."~Unknown

Until next time…



  1. I wish all of my students were interested in learning, not the final grade. In the spring term one junior in college told me "Dr. Strange, this course really bothers me. I just wish you would teach me so I wouldn't have to learn." That's right..."...so I wouldn't have to learn."

    You write well, you think logically, you are determined to get better at what you do, and you are interested in learning. How wonderful!

    Have you watched Randy Pausch's Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams? He was a professor at Carnegie-Mellon. He died of cancer a little over two years ago. His last lecture addresses many of the issues you raise in this post. It will bring a lot of tears but I am certain you will like it.

    Thank you! And keep posting. You have a lot to say.

  2. I was always very defensive during my high school years when it came to constructive criticism. I always felt as if the teacher just needed someone to pick on. If I would have stepped away from my stubborn thinking, and realized, she too, had my best interest in mind, I would have done better in the class... Both attitude and grade wise. I am very happy for you because you can take the criticism and use it for your best interest. You can learn from it, without taking the defensive side. You are a great writer, and as Dr. Strange said, you think logically. Your blog looks great! Keep up the good work, and the best of luck to you!

    -Erin Tillman
    Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class
    University of South Alabama

  3. My name is Talisa Swain. I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I'm in Dr. Strange's class and part of my assignment was to read some of your blog posts. I enjoyed this post very much. You're an excellent writer and you have some very eye-opening point of views. I should take a page from your book and stop being so concerned about my final grade and focus more on the quality of my work. This was an excellent post! Your other blog posts are also excellent!

  4. Hi, My name is Carrie Tucker and I am a student at the University of South Alabama in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class. You have such an extraordinary outlook on constructive criticism. I think the key is, as you stated,that the teacher knows the students on a personal level and also believes in them. Then when they use constructive criticism the student is well aware it's to pull out their potential.

    It is definitely great that you desire to really learn and realize the potential within yourself rather than just settle with a
    good grade!" I believe that will take you a long way. Great job!!

  5. @Dr. Strange: Thank you for your continued comments, I really appreciate your input! Thank you for sharing that story, hopefully you don't get too many of those types of students! I have not seen the movie Last Lecture,is it the same as the book? Because I have the book and am planning on reading it when I get a chance!

    @Erin Tillman: Thank you for your kind words. I think my perspective on criticism is due to my parents and my athletics. I learned from an early age that I don't know everything. Even though it isn't always fun to hear what you are doing wrong, in the long run identifying your weaknesses and changing pays off.

    @Talisa Swain: Thanks for your comment and I am glad that you are enjoying my blogs! I would love to hear your opinions on some of my other posts. Also, let me know if you have a blog, I would love to follow it :)

    @carriet: Thank you for your comment!