Praise is an important mechanism by which to positively reinforce excellence but it needs to be doled out sparingly and specifically. Too many pats on the back and people may question your sincerity. They’ll question your motives if your feedback lacks focus (for example, complimenting someone’s “good work” as opposed to pointing out an appreciation for a “great way to use learning centers to foster differentiated instruction”).
Informal classroom walkthrough provide great opportunities to identify specific areas to compliment. A visit to a teacher and his/her students at work allows for snapshots to be captured, interpreted, and then relayed to the teacher on the following day (perhaps informally in a hallway conversation). Walkthrough feedback may appear to be more sincere since it is based on a spontaneous response (an “instant response”), rather than the kind of feedback provided after spending a planned full classroom session as part of a formal observation.
Written cards are becoming a thing of the past, which makes them all the more special when received by unsuspecting teachers. Make it a point to print the list of teachers at the beginning of each year. Place a check next to each teacher for whom a complimentary card has been delivered. Purchase sets of decorative note cards so they’re on hand in case of impulsive desires to praise arise. There must be something praiseworthy to share with everyone so try to deliver a positive note to each individual before the school year is over.
People will, in time, come to recognize your intentions to positively reinforce the good things happening in your schools if your good will is dispersed to all but perceived as being sincere.