Long ago, I attended several how-to-successfully-teach seminars. We were taught that one of the components of creating a safe and successful classroom where effective learning could take place is teaching students to give and receive sincere “appreciations.”  I knew the concept was true, however, I wasn’t confident initiating it among satire-loving, sarcastic teenagers. I couldn’t visualize high school students spontaneously saying heartfelt things in front of their peers.

In the beginning there was awkward silence, followed by stilted attempts to verbalize something positive.  Since I was the safest person in the class, many times the students targeted me with their appreciations. Years later, however, the term “I have an appreciation” has become almost as common as “I have a question.”

One morning a mother of one of the students joined our class.  Her misty eyes reminded me that what I’ve come to hear as every day normal conversation, she heard as extraordinary. She heard her son’s peers voluntarily say things like: “I appreciate what a solid kid you are. I can always count on you to live up to what you say,” and, “I appreciate your enthusiasm. It’s fun to be where you are. You’ve made this class fun.”

Simply making appreciation statements not only made a safer classroom, it built character. I have watched young people bloom under the rains of appreciation. I remember clearly one young man telling me how he finally began believing in himself when he saw how much his friends believed in him. Another student told the class that he didn’t remember what was said but he still remembers how it made him feel when he received his first appreciation in class. As Charles M. Schwab said, “I have yet to find a man, whatever his situation in life, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he ever would do under a spirit of criticism.” (Richard Evans’ Quote Book [1971], 171).

Appreciations can be shown as well as said.  Here are a few ideas:

  1. A happy look or smile, a wink, tear-filled eyes, a hug, a well-placed sigh.
  2. Doing an act of service or a favor can be a subtle way to let someone know they are appreciated.
  3. Send a text, write a note or an e-mail. Last week several students did this for me.  Their comments not only gave me courage, but they answered a prayer about something of which I was concerned.
  4. A gift or treat

I believe that when we appreciate and recognize the goodness in others, it’s easier to see goodness all around us. Recognizing goodness allows us to trust the love of our Heavenly Father and helps us keep perspective rather than getting overwhelmed and discouraged in an often times cruel world.

Jane Payne is a youth seminary instructor for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The above was part of a newsletter she sends out to the parents of the youth each week.