For educators, it’s inevitable that there will be a time where the semester comes to a close, when it’s time to wish our students all the best in their studies. It’s at this point where students often turn to their educators, looking for something to take away with them into the new semester. This might be the students’ way of showing appreciation for what their educators has contributed to their learning for the semester. It might also be their way of saying thank you.
However, these expectations of students often stumped educators in their tracks, because most of us do not know what to say or do. Some of us might like to offer some insights to students but do not know how to go about doing it. Personally, I feel that the best gifts for students ultimately lie in the words of encouragement that we give them every single day. However, towards the end of the semester, I make it a point to provide personalised comments to them to enable them to work on their strengths and improve on other aspects that needs to be improved on. Why personalised comments, you might ask. Well, students are unique and distinct individuals with their different learning and communicating styles. In the same way that some individuals prefers customised furniture to adorn their houses and tailored clothes for a better fit, educators should be encouraged to commend students individually on how they have done for the past semesters.
Here are some insights as to how to go about doing that:
- Include encouragement: I feel that students, educators or any individuals take well to encouragement. Unfortunately, this is seldom given by others in this time and age. Although we should not look to others for validation, encouragement is often a morale and confidence boosters to not only students, but all of us. So, as educators, we should lavish praise on students (but not to the point that students will abandon humility for complacency).
- Avoid criticism unless absolutely necessary: Considering the fact that criticism is not always welcome by others, we should steer clear of it but in the event that it is absolutely necessary to inform a student that something has to be done to improve his or her academic grades, “areas for improvement” will be a more appropriate euphemism to use. Even then, I feel that the “praise-first-and-criticise-later” approach almost always works. Alternative, the “encouragement-criticism-encouragement” (where criticism is expressed between two aspects of encouragement) method works equally well as well.
- Acknowledge the students’ contributions: I believe that most of us like our presence and/or contributions to be acknowledged by others, and our students are no different. While we should consistently acknowledge their contributions in class, it’s still best to summarise their contributions on an individual basis at the end of the semester as well.
- Tell the students that it’s great to have them in your class: In the same way that a host will thank a guest for gracing the event with their presence (which usually lasts an evening), thank the class for being such great learners (considering that it’s more than an evening; it’s a semester!)
- Wish them well in their studies for subsequent semesters: As educators, I think that our support for our students does not end with the closure of the current semester. Even though we might not be the ones guiding the students for subsequent semesters, we still wish them well. If you share the same sentiments, it will be great to conclude your message to them by wishing them well in their studies for subsequent semesters.
I believe that nothing pleases an educator or a student more than a sincere expression of gratitude and thanks.