Thursday, October 11, 2012

How Encouragement and Appreciation Makes All The Difference

Hi Guys,

Have you ever been in a job or situation where no body encourages you or appreciates you? Chances are you have probably experienced a situation like this at least once in your life. The reality I guess is we are wrong to expect appreciation or encouragement as in most cases it's not the norm. But it's just because of that, that is makes all the difference in the world.

I wanted to share this lesson that I gave my MCC (Motivational Conversation Class) last week because I think the message is particularly special.

 I remember when I was still studying to be a teacher I used to work mornings as a Postman.We didn't get great pay but one thing I did get was appreciation. Whenever I did extra work the manager always made sure to say thank you and appreciate me. When a new manager came to take over the delivery centre the previous manager made sure to tell him all about me "This is Hugh, one of our best workers, he's really bent over backwards for us!" he said. It was this appreciation that made me feel valued there, not the money that we got or the position I held. It's that appreciation that made all the difference.

The first thing that we looked at in the lesson was a video of the Puget Sound Community School in Seattle.



The students at the school start and end every day with words of appreciation. They are also given huge independence in their learning. The director of the school says he has found when the character of the students are strong their academic progress naturally follows. Watch the video for more insight into this fantastic program.

We tried this appreciation technique in my class to see how it felt. All of the teachers made a circle and took turns to give appreciation, it could be to somebody in the room or somebody not present, it could of even been to a few people or a group of people. The atmosphere of the room automatically changed and I feel this is an invaluable technique to use with our students in schools or language institutes.

The next thing we did was listen to a couple of inspiring stories. The first is of Antwone Fisher. He was born in a an Ohio correctional facility (a prison) while his mother was incarcerated. By then his father had already been dead for two months. As a result, he grew up a ward of the state in foster care. For longer than 13 years he lived with a couple who abused him horribly. Daily he was beaten down - physically, verbally and mentally. He never received a Christmas gift or a dime of allowance from his foster parents. For years he was a victim of sexual abuse. And he was often tied to a post in the basement and beaten. His foster mother used to brag that she had once beaten him until he was unconscious.

By the time Fisher entered the third grade, he had lost any natural love for learning. In addition, the constant admonition from his foster mother that he was the worst child in the world had convinced him that he couldn't learn and had no future. He failed fourth grade and was scheduled to repeat it. But then something wonderful happened. His foster family moved, which put him in a new school district. His new teacher was Mrs. Profit. "If there is such a thing as human beings who act as angels in our lives, Brenda Profit was that for me."

Under Brenda Profit's care, Fisher began to change his thinking about himself. He says, "If self-esteem was what you used to fill up like a take of gas, the Pickets {his foster family} had siphoned mine out to nothing. Mrs. Profit helped changed [sic] all that." Despite his gains, his academic progress was still meager by the end of the year. He was in danger of once again failing fourth grade. But then Fisher got another break. It was decided that Mrs. Profit would stay with her class of students and continue teaching then in fifth and sixth grades. Knowing that, she passed Fisher into the fifth grade. And it was then that an event occurred that would change his thinking forever.

It happened one day during reading Fisher, a terribly shy child who sometimes stuttered, was asked to read aloud, and instead of panicking, he read well, including successfully sounding out a difficult word. Then Mrs. Profit praised him, saying, "I'm proud of you. I want you to know that I really struggled over promoting you, and I'm glad that I did. You are doing very well this year." That's when something clicked in Fisher's head. He writes, "Her honest and, careful words are the equivalent of lightning bolts and thunder claps. Outside I shyly accept her praise, but inside I'm flying with the birth of a revelation. It's the first time I've ever realized that there is something I can do to make things different for myself. Not just me, but anyone ...This lesson is a piece of gold I'll keep tucked in my back pocket for the rest of my life."

In that moment, Fisher changed his thinking about himself - and it changed his life. He had plenty of ups and downs after that, but he knew he wasn't hopeless and a better future was possible for him. He didn't follow the path of his older foster brother and friends into a life of drugs and crime.

Today Antwone Fisher thinks for a living. He is a successful screenwriter in Hollywood. And he has become the kind of responsible citizen and family man he always desired to be, with a wife and daughter. When asked what message he wants his story to convey, his answer is, "That there is hope even when you have the hardest beginnings, and there are good people in the world." (Story taken from Today Matters By Antwone Fisher and revised by John C. Maxwell in his book Encouragement)

That shows what a difference a teacher or anyone can make when they simply take the time to appreciate and encourage somebody. They can really be the one who makes the difference, you can really be the one!

The next story we had a look at was of a young man in the early 19th century. He aspired to be a writer but everything seemed against him. He had never been able to attend school for more than four years. His father had been flung in jail because he couldn't pay his debts, and this young man often knew the pangs of hunger. Finally he got a job posting labels on bottles of blacking in a rat infested warehouse, and he slept at night in a dismal attic room with two other boys - guttersnipes from the slums of London. He had so little confidence in his ability to write that he sneaked out and mailed his first manuscript in the dead of night so that nobody would laugh at him. Story after story was refused. Finally the great day came when one was accepted. True, he wasn't paid a shilling for it, but one editor had praised him. One editor had given him recognition. He was so thrilled that he wandered aimlessly around the streets with tears rolling down his cheeks.
The praise, the recognition, that he received through getting one story in print, changed his whole life, for if it hadn't been for that encouragement, he might have spent his entire life working in rat-infested factories. You might have heard of that boy. His name was Charles Dickons. (Story taken from Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends & Influence People)

In both stories these men's lives were changed by the simple acts of encouragement and appreciation. It really makes all the difference, I can't say it enough. So the next time you see something you like or appreciate something somebody has done, speak up! It only takes a few seconds and is the easiest way to make somebody's day, maybe even change their life.

At the end of my lesson I got the teachers to all come up one by one and share how somebody's words of encouragement or appreciation changed their lives'.

Maybe you have a similar experience? Post it up to our Change Lives Together Facebook Group! And don't forget to subscribe to my blog if you've enjoyed reading.

Until next time, keep shining, sharing and succeeding!

-Hugh



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