Looking to cultivate learning with a positive classroom climate? Join the conversation with Parrie Oates and Ashlie Smith to learn how the art of compliments can improve our education system, one student at a time.

Parrie Oates and Ashlie Smith in Classroom Conversations

Looking to cultivate learning with a positive classroom climate? Join the conversation with Parrie Oates and Ashlie Smith to learn how the art of compliments can improve our education system, one student at a time.




Ashley Mengwasser: Good day, amazing teachers. Hi. You're perfectly tuned in right now to Classroom Conversations. The platform for Georgia's teachers. I'm Ashley Mengwasser. Thank you for being here. Our series is presented with gusto through a joint partnership between the Georgia Department of Education and Georgia Public Broadcasting. What if I said I could put you in a better mood almost immediately? And it's not megalomania, it's psychology. A new field of research has emerged to study the positive effects of compliments. Research has revealed two things so far. First, that compliments make the receiver feel even better than we anticipate. And second, that compliments also improve the mood of the compliment giver. Today we're considering this uplifting topic, the power of a compliment and peer encouragement in our classrooms. For the sake of conversation, our working definitions are, thank you, Webster, compliment, an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration, and encourage, inspire, urge, or foster with courage, spirit, or hope. I now encourage you to meet our guests. Between them, these two educators have every grade level covered from K through 12. Ashlie Smith teaches maths of many varieties at Dade County High School. She is dedicated to her students' wellbeing with such thoughtful activities as daily check-ins and encouraging cross-complimenting. You know how I love to meet another Ashley, folks. And here with the coolest name ever is Parrie Oates. Parrie is an intervention specialist at Leadership Preparatory Academy in DeKalb County, a K through 8 school. Parrie builds powerful relationships with her students, and, yeah, she's pretty contagious. You're going to see that. Hi, women. How are you?

Ashlie Smith: Good. How are you doing?

Ashley Mengwasser: I’m awesome, Ashlie. Parrie, how are you today?

Parrie Oates: I’m great. I am great. Just excited to be here.

Ashley Mengwasser: You are? I was admiring, when I came in immediately, the beautiful hue of red you are wearing because we're going to start the show with compliments, naturally.

Parrie Oates: Okay.

Ashley Mengwasser: I love that color. What would you call that color?

Parrie Oates: I would call it a maroon or a burgundy.

Ashley Mengwasser: A very nice maroon and burgundy. And Ashlie, I love the pattern that you're wearing today.

Ashlie Smith: Thank you.

Ashley Mengwasser: Describe this pattern for us.

Ashlie Smith: Exciting cheetah print. I feel like it kind of goes with our personality being a little exciting, a little edgy.

Ashley Mengwasser: Great.

Ashlie Smith: But also trying to present some happiness with the yellows in there.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. I love, the mustard is a nice touch. Thank you. So everybody is here, showed up to show out. Thank you so much for being here today. Just a few hard-hitting questions here. That's a lie. Can you tell me the best compliment you've given lately and the best compliment you've received? Parrie?

Parrie Oates: Now are we talking academic? Education?

Ashley Mengwasser: Any fashion.

Parrie Oates: Okay. I will say the best compliment I've received lately would've come from a colleague.

Ashley Mengwasser: Good.

Parrie Oates: I was telling them how nervous I was about today, and she just inspired me. She said, I want you to understand that you have touched so many lives. You were built for this. This is you. This is what you do, and you're going to be great. And I think that just really, it kind of was like oh, thank you.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, good.

Parrie Oates: You know when you know someone's watching you and they may not say it all the time or you just go about doing your job day to day, but then when someone says something to inspire you or they tell you, I've been watching you, I think that you're amazing and you're doing a good job. You're like, thanks.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah.

Parrie Oates: So that really inspired me this morning.

Ashley Mengwasser: Are you still feeling nervous?

Parrie Oates: No.

Ashley Mengwasser: Good.

Parrie Oates: I think you've set the tone for me.

Ashley Mengwasser: I’m so glad.

Parrie Oates: So, I'm okay.

Ashley Mengwasser: Invite you in.

Parrie Oates: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: So now tell us a compliment you've given that you thought was important.

Parrie Oates: A compliment I've given. My students, the scholars at my school, I give compliments to them all the time, whether it can be academics, telling them, I'm so proud of you... Just today, I went in, they were showing me a paper that they were doing. I walked into a teacher's classroom, and they were like, look Ms. Oates, look what I did. And I'm like, so awesome. I am so proud of you. And they were like, yes, I wanted you to be proud.

Ashley Mengwasser: Aw.

Parrie Oates: So yes, just today I gave that compliment, and I try to compliment them on every little thing I see, whether it's their hair, haircut, you're looking handsome, just anything, I'll tell them. Because I just want them to fill a sense of pride, and so I know how important that compliment can be, whether it's academic or social or physical.

Ashley Mengwasser: That's right.

Parrie Oates: The importance of them all.

Ashley Mengwasser: Now they seek to make you proud.

Parrie Oates: Yes, they do.

Ashley Mengwasser: What a conversion, Ashlie, what's the best compliment you've given and received lately?

Ashlie Smith: The best one I've received lately came from one of my students. At the end of every semester I like to do a survey and have them kind of give me feedback on the semester and how things went and what worked for them, what didn't, and just anything in general they want to say. And one of them put on there that he acknowledged that our classroom was full of really intelligent students, and that with a teacher like me, not even the sky is the limit, like we have endless possibilities.

Ashley Mengwasser: Wow.

Ashlie Smith: I thought that was so kind of like, oh yeah...

Parrie Oates: I love that.

Ashlie Smith: ... not even the sky is the limit. That's amazing. And so that just felt really good. We compliment our students a lot, and it's really nice to hear things back from them, because that doesn't happen quite as often. So when they noticed something about you as a teacher, that's just really cool to hear it.

Ashley Mengwasser: That's special.

Ashlie Smith: And one I gave recently was to my principal. This is first year as a principal, and we all know that that job is hard. That is a hard job.

Ashley Mengwasser: That is a hard job.

Parrie Oates: Yes, it is.

Ashlie Smith: Not one that I want. And so I just wanted to let him know how much I recognized what he was doing for the culture and the environment of our school. He pours so much into us, and I'm always wondering who pours into him. And so I just sent him an email recently just letting him know that I recognized what he was doing and I felt it and it made me enjoy coming to work. It put the joy back in teaching and being comfortable inside of my classroom again. And just that his support meant a lot to me as a teacher that I felt like I could do what I needed to do in my job because he was being so intentional with what he was doing with us.

Ashley Mengwasser: With his job.

Ashlie Smith: Yeah.

Ashley Mengwasser: Are there encouraging words, it could be a quote or just a few words, you've heard that you feel like last a lifetime for you that you'd like to share with our listeners? What is that?

Parrie Oates: I would say my professor in college, I went to Oakwood College, Oakwood University now in Huntsville, Alabama, I remember it was classroom organization and management. And she said to me, when educating the mind of youth, do not forget to educate their hearts. And that stuck with me because we do have to teach to the standards, and we know how important the textbook education side of things are, but educating their hearts creates a good human being.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah.

Parrie Oates: So that kind of really stuck with me.

Ashlie Smith: I have one, we do a character plan at our school, and one year, one of our words was encouragement. And I always try to put a quote on the board with that word of the month that we're using, and so one that I found that I've just kind of held onto ever since then was correction does much, but encouragement does more. So in our job, we do a lot of correcting and helping our students with things that they're learning or doing, behaviors, academics, but that doing it with encouragement can do more than just pointing out and correcting that behavior. So I thought that was really cool.

Ashley Mengwasser: That's powerful. To go deeper into our conversation about compliments and encouragement, let's just start with this quick question. Are there any compliments you've found that don't work, whether by approach or wording? What have you seen in your experience that doesn't quite land what I was going for?

Ashlie Smith: I think knowing your audience is really important. There are some things that our students would be self-conscious about that they wouldn't want you to compliment on, and so knowing your kids and what is going to perk them up the most when you compliment it is really important. So reading the room, getting the vibe from them.

Ashley Mengwasser: Reading the room.

Ashlie Smith: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes, that's smart. Parrie?

Parrie Oates: I definitely think that's it, reading the room. Because everything doesn't work. It's not a one-size-fits-all in education, not for children, not even for adults. What does it for some doesn't do it for others, so I agree completely, Ashlie. I think reading the room and knowing the needs of your child is essential, because paying a compliment that didn't really compliment me, like did that really make a difference?

Ashley Mengwasser: Exactly.

Parrie Oates: Was that for you or was that for me? So I think-

Ashley Mengwasser: Right. Doesn't achieve the desired outcome.

Parrie Oates: Right. Right.

Ashley Mengwasser: Exactly. So how do you do it in the microcosm of your classrooms? How do you each use compliments and encouragement with your students?

Parrie Oates: Well, I don't have a classroom, but I use it through going into other teachers’ classrooms.

Ashley Mengwasser: Into other classrooms.

Parrie Oates: Yes. So I used to have morning duty outside in the front. I don't have that duty anymore, but I started the year with that duty, and I would just greet them. Good morning, how are you? We're so glad you joined us today. It's a marvelous Monday. That's how I would greet them because I want them... I am that liaison from leaving the car to walking down the hallway to your teacher.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yep.

Parrie Oates: I want to create that sense of pride, that sense of joy, so by the time they get to their teacher and their teacher then greets them as well, then it's like, oh yeah, I'm ready to start my day. I'm ready.

Ashley Mengwasser: They’re amped up.

Parrie Oates: They’re amped up. And so between that and then popping in sometimes during the day just to wave, just to say hi, I hope you guys have an awesome, fantastic Friday or a terrific Thursday, those are the things that I do, just to pop in too so they can see me and realize we're watching you, we're proud of you, and we know you're going to have a successful day.

Ashley Mengwasser: That’s exciting. How do you do this in your classroom, Ashlie?

Ashlie Smith: I agree, first, with Parrie, greeting them at the door, letting them be the first person that you see and giving them some excitement for the day or for my class is really important. And it also kind of gives me a gauge on how they're doing for today. Are we in a good mood? Do I need-

Ashley Mengwasser: Now, you have high schoolers.

Ashlie Smith: Yes.

Parrie Oates: Simpler to check.

Ashlie Smith: And their moods change very often. And so it gives me a good read on them before they even come in the door. And it kind of lets me know, do I need to interject? Or do I just need to let them have some time? What's going on with them? And then also I do daily check-ins.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes.

Ashlie Smith: And that's at the beginning of class. That allows me to get attendance done and do some other things. And so they do that while I'm doing my teacher things. And on there, it gives them options between choosing like this or that. I give them different pictures. Like some of them would be watching a movie at home or watching a movie in a theater? What are you feeling today? And then it leaves in space for them to just leave a compliment for anybody. So we call them our daily shout-outs.

Ashley Mengwasser: Aw.

Ashlie Smith: And then when all of that's done, I read a few of those for our class. And so they get some immediate compliments from their peers. Which is really cool because they love getting compliments from us, but they definitely love getting compliments from each other.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, yeah.

Ashlie Smith: They care what each other thinks about them. So it was just a really cool shift to see them doing it for each other. So it helps them learn how to compliment, because some of them are not always great at it.

Ashley Mengwasser: It's modeling.

Ashlie Smith: Yeah.

Ashley Mengwasser: Exactly.

Ashlie Smith: And then they enjoy getting those compliments as well.

Ashley Mengwasser: What differences do you see in them and in your positive classroom climate and student engagement as a result of these methods?

Ashlie Smith: I think we have more of just kind of an open space where we feel like we can all be ourselves. I think it's lended well to me being able to have my students work with various different people in the classroom because we all have this understanding of we see each other, we see the good in each other, we respect each other. And so conversations flow so much easier, group work goes so much better because students aren't afraid of making mistakes or having to be a certain way. They can be them, because we've recognized all of the great things about each other.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah, exactly. What positive differences do you see, Parrie?

Parrie Oates: I see a change in behavior, even the way they're walking down the halls, just wanting to make someone proud. They're looking for that compliment.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, yeah.

Parrie Oates: And so, I think it changes the way that they view things, the way that they view themselves, the way that they view one another. And so they're wanting to make not just me proud, not just the teacher proud, not just their peers proud, but everyone that comes in contact with them, they're a little bit more excited about doing something that makes them proud.

Ashley Mengwasser: How do your students react to a culture of compliments? Is that ever weird or awkward for them?

Parrie Oates: At first.

Ashley Mengwasser: Really?

Parrie Oates: Yes. Yes. Especially for me, because I'll walk in the room, not even greet the teacher. I'm like, good morning guys. How's everyone doing? You guys look great. And they're like... They're not sure at first.

Ashley Mengwasser: They're awake.

Parrie Oates: Now, they're used to it. They're like, there goes Ms. Oates.

Ashley Mengwasser: How did your students react, Ashlie?

Ashlie Smith: Yeah. It's awkward at first. High schoolers in general can be a little awkward.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah.

Ashlie Smith: So, they're kind of like, you want us to do what? Okay, sure. And it's like, yeah, this is going to be great. This is going to be so much fun. And they're like, uh, we don't do that. That's not what we do. I'm like, well, it's what we're going to do now. So it is a little awkward at first, but as we continued to do it, and I was very intentional about it, it became just so easy. They started coming into class already knowing what compliment they were going to give somebody that day.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, I love that.

Ashlie Smith: Because it made them more aware of each other and just observing, being more observant during the day, not even just in my classroom, but when they would see each other outside of that and in the hallways and doing different things. So eventually it becomes something that just seems so natural for them. But it is awkward at first.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah, it is vulnerability.

Ashlie Smith: Yeah.

Ashley Mengwasser: It can be hard for adults too, but it takes those blinders of me off and forces us to look and evaluate others for their positives, and that really builds community. You make complimenting sounds so easy. Is it just an offhanded attaboy, attagirl, good job? Or how do you make them sincere and grounded and specific to the complimentee?

Parrie Oates: Observation. I observe the students. I observe them how they communicate with one another. I also talk with their teachers. The teachers will talk about different students academically when we talk, but then also I think it's important to get to know the individual student. So in observing them, I know what they like, what matters to them. When they're talking about a puppy or talking about... Like I can talk to them about Sebastian, and I start talking about my Pumpkin, and they're telling I have one too. And just seeing them in the morning, hey, how's your dog? How's your dog doing? So, it's not just about the compliment itself, more so is it also about just connecting with them positively and authentically.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah, you got their background information?

Parrie Oates: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes.

Parrie Oates: And so, it becomes authentic because it's not generalized. I'm talking to you personally about some things I know about you personally.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes. It's not some flimsy, generic compliment.

Parrie Oates: Right, right.

Ashley Mengwasser: It is rooted and grounded in the very essence of who they are. What about you, Ashlie? How do you keep them sincere?

Ashlie Smith: Yeah, I'm going to agree with Parrie. It's just through observations of your students, getting to know them, learning things about them. And I think just the way in which we present it too and the tone in which we have when we do it. Sometimes we can give sarcastic compliments that have a little bit of that to them, and it doesn't come across as a compliment anymore. So I think the way that we carry ourselves when we say it to them, and then again, just making something that's very personal so they know that you have recognized something about them. Like a new haircut. Yes, I love your haircut. I have students who I know math is not their favorite subject-

Ashley Mengwasser: No.

Ashlie Smith: ... or something that they're great at. I know, it's hard to believe that somebody doesn't love math. But just when they finally reach an aha moment in class, making sure that I point that out and compliment that moment for them. Because that's only going to encourage them even more to kind of try and keep doing at something that they don't necessarily feel like they're great at.

Ashley Mengwasser: Can you guys share two anecdotes about how the practices of complimenting and encouraging have enhanced either/or both your relationship with students and their relationships to each other? What do you have?

Ashlie Smith: I think it's changed our relationship in building just a level of trust beyond me just being their math teacher.

Ashley Mengwasser: Right.

Ashlie Smith: And it kind of helped break down some barriers to that as well. I get a lot of kids who come in and math is just not their thing. It's not their subject, and so we already have some walls built up towards it. And so taking the time to do something that is not math related, start our day off with something that's really positive and exciting, kind of helps everybody relax a little. And when they relax a little, then those walls start to come down, and we can learn and do so much more than we did before. And it also just makes them more willing to collaborate with each other. They're starting to learn who their classmates are, because they have different classes all over the place, and they don't know all the people that they go to school with. So it allows for them to just be a little bit more trusting to work with each other.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah.

Ashlie Smith: And they get to meet and know people that they wouldn't have ever thought could be a friend of theirs. So friendships are forming when we do things like this. It's just really cool.

Ashley Mengwasser: What are you seeing in your relationships with students and theirs with each other?

Parrie Oates: So, in my relationship with students, I would have to say trust as well, because they're not my students.

Ashley Mengwasser: Right.

Parrie Oates: I'm not their homeroom teacher.

Ashley Mengwasser: You're in and out.

Parrie Oates: Right. I'm coming, pulling them sometimes, or I'm coming, pushing in. And so it's like, well, who's that? Does she also have my best interest at heart? So I have to kind of earn their trust. And so I think that in earning their trust, having a conversation with them, paying them a compliment, asking them how they're doing, what did they do over the weekend, over the break, just sometimes listening without so many things to say, before we begin to start on that intervention. Let's talk about this... So I think it creates just a ball of trust between the two of us and just the other children that I meet with as well. And then for them with their peers, kindness.

Ashley Mengwasser: That's so important.

Parrie Oates: I just really think it's so important for us to show kindness to one another. And so their friends are now like, oh, I want to do that. Do I need to do something nice? Because they always want to do something nice for their teacher.

Ashley Mengwasser: Right.

Parrie Oates: We want to teach them to spread that kindness amongst one another as well.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah, to everyone.

Parrie Oates: Right.

Ashley Mengwasser: Big and small. Young and older, never old. I know the difference. I want to know how compliments can work alongside expectations, because you're communicating expectations in your classrooms all the time. How do you acknowledge your students when they follow and meet expectations and goals?

Ashlie Smith: I think it's important to acknowledge when they do things, even though we expect them to do those things.

Ashley Mengwasser: Right.

Ashlie Smith: Because I think about like my students, they have four different classes that they go to during the day, and all of their teachers have different expectations. And so they're trying to keep up with all the expectations that they're expected to do everywhere that they go, and so they're going to need reminders. And I think pointing out that good behavior ahead of time just helps them and reminds even their classmates, like yeah, that's it. That's what I'm supposed to be doing. And doing it in a positive way just makes them feel even better about it.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes. How about expectations in your classes, Parrie?

Parrie Oates: So, the expectations are set with the homeroom teachers, but I just reemphasize it, I guess, when I come in, or even on our morning announcements, my team of morning announcement students, shout-out to the third graders at LPA. So I usually have three third-graders to do the announcements, but now I've started to do two, and I allow them to pick a second-grader to join them, and then it'll trickle down, then the first-grader. Because I want them to know that they are the leaders of the school. On the lower school side, they are the leaders. Because we have K-3 on one side and 4-8 is on the other side.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah.

Parrie Oates: And so, with them doing the announcements comes a sense of pride, and I think that just letting them know, I'm so proud of you did a good job reading today. Also, I teach them that they should be watching their peers because you're going to be responsible for picking the next person who's doing the announcements. And I want to make sure you're picking a scholar who's doing the right thing. Are they a leader?

Ashley Mengwasser: Mm-hmm.

Parrie Oates: Are they behaving themselves? Because that's the type of leaders we want to do the morning announcements. And so they're like, I really was observing so-and-so in this class, and I think they'll be good to do it after me. And I love that. I love that they're watching each other, and they're saying to themselves, you know what? Yeah, I can pick a leader too, just like a teacher can pick a leader. So the expectations are set in everything throughout the building, whether the teachers are setting them... The students are setting expectations for one another as well, so it kind of just trickles down. It becomes really infectious.

Ashley Mengwasser: What is your one-sentence response to this line: why compliment students for doing what they should be doing anyway?

Parrie Oates: As an adult, I want to compliment when I'm doing something right.

Ashlie Smith: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: Hear, hear. There's the gavel on that. Yeah.

Parrie Oates: I mean, just to be honest, we know what we should do. We know the expectation. But what's wrong? What did it take away from us to just merely say, you did an awesome job. That was great. Yes, that was expected of you, but I think that the expectations should be a compliment in return as well.

Ashley Mengwasser: I like that.

Parrie Oates: Just like we that expect good behavior, let's go ahead and expect a compliment as well. What's wrong with it?

Ashley Mengwasser: Okay. I love that. Take it to the next level. Ashlie?

Ashlie Smith: I couldn't agree more with Parrie. I love being complimented too as an adult. When an administrator walks in your room and it's like you just did... that lesson right there was amazing. I like hearing it. And so it's nice for our students to hear that too. Even when... I mean I'm expected to teach well.

Ashley Mengwasser: Of course.

Ashlie Smith: And so, getting that compliment that I've done a good job, it's the same thing for them. They're expected to learn and to behave. And it's good for them to also hear like, yeah, I love that you did that today.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah.

Ashlie Smith: Even though you were supposed to do it, I still love that you did it.

Ashley Mengwasser: That affirmation encourages you to stay on the right track...

Parrie Oates: Yes.

Ashlie Smith: Exactly.

Ashley Mengwasser: ... and keep going and go further and higher. Sky's the limit. They told you Ashley.

Parrie Oates: Yes.

Ashlie Smith: Actually, it's not the limit.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, sorry.

Parrie Oates: It's not the limit.

Ashlie Smith: We can go beyond it.

Ashley Mengwasser: So, what is the limit? This is getting very advanced math.

Ashlie Smith: We're limitless.

Ashley Mengwasser: I know. Infinity. Infinity. What advice do each of you have for teachers who are setting up a positive environment so that all students can feel successful and all are included? What do you say to them?

Parrie Oates: I can think, off the top of my head, I have colleagues who have mirrors, full-size mirrors in their classroom, and they call them affirmation, and they'll like post little affirmations around the mirror. I have another colleague who has a kindness wall in her classroom. Other colleagues who have a corner where they can go and gather themselves or get themselves together, kind of pump themselves up if they're not in the best temperature, attitude at that moment. Those, to me, I love to see that. And I can count so many teachers in my building that have those moments and those areas set up to allow their children to feel like they're in a safe space.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah.

Parrie Oates: Whether you're having a bad day or a good day, it provides that space for them to be able to share that with you, and it's okay, and I can take a moment to get myself together.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes.

Parrie Oates: I can take the time that I need to get on the right track so that I can be the best scholar for the day.

Ashley Mengwasser: Go and find those resident complimentarians in your school. What advice do you have for setting a positive classroom, Ashlie?

Ashlie Smith: Yeah, I agree, modeling, seeing it in person is really important. I would also encourage them, especially if they're a new teacher, because that can be really an overwhelming time in your career, start with something small. You don't have to do all the things at once to create a positive environment. Pick one thing and do it really well. And then from there, it kind of grows. That's how mine started. We started with a Friday compliments and accolades time, 10 minutes of class every Friday, and it kind of grew from there. So take something small, get really good at it, and then you can begin to add in new things that are only going to grow that positive culture in your classroom.

Ashley Mengwasser: Over time.

Ashlie Smith: Yeah.

Ashley Mengwasser: Can you give an example where complimenting a particular student adjusted their behavior?

Ashlie Smith: Sure. Yeah. I have one student in particular I think of. Since I started at the middle school level and then moved over, I've had a lot of the same kids two to three times. So we know each other really well. But I've also gotten the blessing of getting to watch them grow up and just watching how they've matured over time and things like that. And I can think of one student who is known for getting in a lot of trouble, having to spend days and ISS or not being able to ride the bus and things like that. And I've had him in class and just have encouraged him a lot. I made him one of those where like I'm going to make sure that I point out everything great that he does. Because he's capable of being a good person-

Ashley Mengwasser: Of course.

Ashlie Smith: ... and I of wanted him to see that and feel that as well. And we were having a conversation not too long ago where he was like, oh my God, I just realized I have not been to ISS at all this semester. And I'm like, that's right, you haven't. You have not, and that is amazing. And so his mindset has started a change to I am a good person and I'm capable of doing good things. And it's great to have someone who can point those things out to him.

Ashley Mengwasser: Right.

Ashlie Smith: He needs that. And that's going to only continue to grow as he continues to move through high school. So it's a really cool experience to see it with him.

Ashley Mengwasser: It's like you're transforming him from the outside-in.

Ashlie Smith: Yeah.

Ashley Mengwasser: Which is wonderful. Do you have a story when complimenting changed a student, Parrie?

Parrie Oates: I will have to go back to my morning greeting at the door.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes.

Parrie Oates: There were two students I can think of that just really, they came to school upset, just upset whether it was tears or just stomping through the door, just upset at the process of getting up and getting there every morning. And it was every morning. And I would tell them, I said, we're just so happy to see you. We're so glad you came, that you joined us today. And so I think just telling them it's like, yeah, they're excited to see me. They want me to come. They missed me. And so I think personalizing those greetings and telling them in the morning how great it is to see their smiling faces, and I think it made a difference. Because now I can definitely see the transformation. He's not pouting anymore. He's not slumping. I even got him to stop crying.

Ashley Mengwasser: Look at that.

Parrie Oates: So, I definitely think that made a difference, giving those compliments and just continuing to be consistent with me.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes. Consistency.

Parrie Oates: Because it'll be the one time that I don't do it that he's like, well, what happened?

Ashley Mengwasser: Exactly. He needs that.

Parrie Oates: So, the consistency, I think, of it all really made a difference.

Ashley Mengwasser: Well, also, from the research I shared in the beginning, it feels good for the complimenter too. So it may feel like you've got to be Pollyanna sometimes, but it feels good for you. It has a positive outcome.

Parrie Oates: Right.

Ashley Mengwasser: So, let's conclude with your teaching tips for teachers in their complimenting and encouraging practices. What do you have for them?

Ashlie Smith: I guess, just modeling, being consistent, determining in the beginning what's important for you and sticking to it. And even on the days where you feel like it didn't work, where you complimented somebody and it still didn't help change your attitude that day, it doesn't mean that it won't further down the line or that you haven't planted a seed that's eventually going to grow into something bigger. So determine what's important for you, be consistent, and just hang in there on the days even when it seems like it doesn't work.

Ashley Mengwasser: Keep going.

Ashlie Smith: Yeah.

Ashley Mengwasser: Keep going. Parrie, what are your last words?

Parrie Oates: I'm going to go ahead and piggyback on that. Perseverance, consistency. There may not be an automatic change, and that's okay, because at some point, when that light bulb comes on and that connection is made, like you said, the complimenter, the feeling you feel when you know that you've made a difference... I do think also just getting others involved. We're all in this together.

Ashley Mengwasser: We're all villagers.

Parrie Oates: High School Musical, like they say it all the time, we are all in this together. And so I think that as a village, when we all come together and we're all paying those compliments, we're all making sure the students are okay, we're all checking on each other. The positive climate environment within our staff has to be empowering as well. And so it's just so rewarding when we continue to give those compliments.

Ashley Mengwasser: Well, this is one of the hardest episodes to end because where else are we showered in the edifying effects of compliments? It's hard to say goodbye, but thank you, Parrie, thank you, Ashlie. Did you have a good time?

Ashlie Smith: I had a great time.

Ashley Mengwasser: Where are your nerves now, Parrie?

Parrie Oates: I think they're gone.

Ashlie Smith: Yeah, they're all gone.

Ashley Mengwasser: Down to zero.

Parrie Oates: They're down to zero. They're minimized.

Ashley Mengwasser: That's what I like to hear. I think you turned the room around. And to all of our teachers listening, keep the enthusiastic encouragement coming. Vibe checks, check-ins, you name it, your students claim it, and everyone is uplifted. I can't rightly conclude with our usual single compliment tag, oh no, so here are three. We admire you for the sacrifices you make for your students. They don't go unnoticed. Also, our education system is made better by you every single day. And lastly, as always, you're a great teacher. Classroom Conversations is back next week. This is your host, Ashley, signing off. Talk to you then. Bye-bye.

Funding for Classroom Conversations is made possible through the School Climate Transformation Grant.