I have a student in my class who is outstanding. I feel uneasy praising her too much, fearing that other students might begin to resent her. What should be the right course?
Trust your uneasiness. You do no favour to the student by constantly praising her. It would be best for her and everyone else to look for opportunities, where the entire class can be appreciated: “What teamwork! You all pitched in and look at the class now – it’s spick and span. No trace of any project done here.”
When you are especially pleased by what your bright student has done, describe it as a matter of fact: “I see how you managed to research in detail and use just the right information for your report.” This is the kind of comment other students will hear and maybe benefit from, too. It would be best to reserve your emotional response to the student for a private moment. Then when you can tell her why and how much you enjoy having her in your classroom.
What is the danger in recognizing a student as the ‘fastest’, ‘best’ or ‘brightest’ in class? The teacher is only trying to fuel the student’s confidence in his or her abilities. It should make other students want to compete, too.
The danger in focusing on who is the ‘fastest’, ‘best’ or ‘brightest’ is twofold. The remaining class may become discouraged and stop trying harder instead of being motivated. They clearly know who will always win, so they see no point in making an effort to improve. The second problem is that the star now needs the rest of the class to perform poorly in order to continue to shine in the teacher’s eyes. The bright student will not worry about personal goals but about maintaining his or her stardom.
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