“You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you.” (Rita Pierson)

Affirmation, encouragement, praise . . .  

“You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you.”

Recently I came across this great TED talk by Rita Pierson “Every kid needs a champion”.

Rita’s entire life centred around education. Her parents and her mother’s parents were teachers, and she was a teacher.

She observed numerous teachers at work – some of the best and some of the worst – and believed that relationships are the key to learning.

She said that

 “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

Rita spoke about having classes of students whose academic level was so low she wondered how she could “raise the self-esteem of a child and his academic achievement at the same time”.

One year she told her students

“You were chosen to be in my class because I am the best teacher and you are the best students, they put us together so we could show everybody else how to do it.”

Affirmation, encouragement, praise . . .

She talked about giving a student a +2 with a smiley face for getting 2 out 20 questions correct. She encouraged the student by saying

“you’re on a roll . . . and when we review this, won’t you do better?”

The student agreed “I can do better”.

Affirmation, encouragement, praise . . .

Rita told of her mother’s past students expressing their gratitude for the difference she made in their lives, saying

“You made me feel like I was somebody, when I knew, at the bottom, I wasn’t. And I want you to just see what I’ve become.”

Affirmation, encouragement, praise . . .

She tells us that teachers won’t always like all the children they teach, but it’s important that the children never know it. Acting is part of the role description!

She says that

“Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”

Affirmation, encouragement, praise . . .  

Go ahead and listen to this inspirational talk. It will take less than 8 minutes listening time but its effect will be more lasting. It has already had more than 2 600 000 views. Why not add one more to the total. I’m certain you won’t regret it.

I can find nothing to dispute in Rita’s talk. I’d like to underline every word and make it compulsory viewing for all aspiring and practising educators in any field.

Affirmation, encouragement, praise . . .  helpful or harmful?

What do you think?  Please share your thoughts below.

Refer to these previous posts for discussions on self-esteem, affirmations and praise:

Happy being me

Affirmations: How good are they?

Seeking praise – Stephen Grosz revisited

Examining praise: Stephen Grosz – the third instalment (guest post by Anne Goodwin)

I came across this talk on a great educational website edutopia. It was included in a Five-Minute Film Festival: Videos on Kindness, Empathy, and Connection. Check the others out. You may find something else to inspire you.

Sadly Rita Pierson passed away in June 2013. I’m grateful that we may continue to share the strength of her wisdom through her appearance with TED.

Click here to find out more about Rita and to read a tribute posted by Tedstaff.

“You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you.” (Rita Pierson)

Let’s make sure it’s the good stuff that learners everywhere are hearing!

4 thoughts on ““You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you.” (Rita Pierson)

  1. Bec

    Thanks for this post Nor, I really liked Rita’s quote where she told her class she is the best teacher and they are the best students. I can’t remember if this is something you have written about before, but I recall a study where teachers were found to preempt “poor” students’ poor performance, and “good” students’ good performance, even to the point of assessing them through a biased lens. I just looked it up and it’s called the pygmalion effect, or the golem effect – so I guess I did read about it on your blog after all!!


    1. Norah Post author

      You’re right, Bec. I did briefly discuss the pygmalion effect and the golem effect in a previous post: Mouthing the words – the golem effect: http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-bo I love that quote of Rita’s also. It is such a powerful thing to get kids to believe – to believe in themselves and their ability – to take a risk and have a go. You can’t achieve anything if you don’t have a go, and you have to believe it is worth taking the step to have a go in the first place. May her message live on!


  2. shecando

    Another great post! Reading this just put such a smile on my face, and I’m now heading over to watch it.
    I truly believe that affirmation, praise and encouragement are so very important. I know that personally, I’ve always felt like I could do anything I set my mind to, and I owe it to my parents for equipping me with the right amount of guidance and encouragement.


    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment and support. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, I’m sure you will enjoy the talk even more. Rita’s talk is not only inspirational, her humour and ability to make her audience feel empathy and connected make it all the more special. What a wonderful way to feel – that you could do anything you set your mind to! Your parents must be very proud. It is obvious that you are passing on the tradition of positive guidance and encouragement to the children in your care. I’m sure they, too, believe they can do anything they set their minds to!



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