Education: Kristin School
I used to dread my grandmother finding out that I had been recognised for anything at school. Us kids used to joke that her kisses were so sloppy you needed a mop and bucket to clean up the aftermath. She even had a few whiskers that would bristle against your cheek as she planted one on you. We’d wriggle and squirm in her embrace and scuttle off indignantly once released from the assault of love.
A few good-natured jibes from a sibling or two were sure to follow such a public display of grandmotherly pride, however they couldn’t shake the well-honed façade of this sullen teenager. While deep down I was elated by the celebration of my achievements, I was simultaneously horrified by the attention.
For some reason, even as an adult, I struggle with a compliment. It is as though I enjoy people knowing that I have accomplished something but cringe in the face of recognition. A symptom of the tall poppy phenomena perhaps? Whatever its cause, I know I am not alone in this dichotomy.
So, I put it to you; how are you with receiving recognition or, more specifically, compliments? Are you are gracious receiver, or a reluctant one?
I gave this some thought recently when I was discussing with one of my students the recognition that they had received in an assembly. They mentioned the significance of the award was amplified by the number of people, on Facebook, that had commented on their achievement. No less than 10 of their friends had heaped praise.
Digital guru, Mark Trewell, says social media is not the source of all evil; it simply magnifies social phenomena. The idea, then, that students should feel even more proud by their ‘friends’ on Facebook acknowledging their accomplishment is a usual social phenomena increased, somewhat, through digital technology.
Perhaps the similarities between a Facebook ‘like’ and a grandmother’s kiss are more than may appear at first glance. The student in question clearly felt the glow of recognition that I recognised from my own memories. When I was a child and my mother would march me off to any relative to share my good news, she did so to ensure that I understood how proud she was of my latest achievement. The praise of these 10 Facebook friends is surely founded with the same good intent.
I wonder, though, whether we might not be undoing the notion of intrinsic motivation. Is being awarded the certificate in itself and being applauded on stage by their peers no longer enough. Would the award have felt hollow if no one had commented on Facebook? Is this now an integral part of our sense of recognition; the determinant of the magnitude of our pride is the number of Facebook comments received?
As always, I am mindful of digital neurosis – the paranoia we parents have that these digital devices will be the ruination of our children. I tackle this in myself by instead looking to traditional curative measure: The ‘chicken soup’ of sentiment, if you like.
What has always worked socially will continue to speak most loudly to the emerging generation. I reassure myself that there will never be a substitute for a heartfelt pat on the back and the accompanied swelling of pride. Further evidence is available in the glowing smile that breaches even the sternest adolescent’s face when enwrapped by a parent’s congratulatory embrace. Add to this the smile and tear that slide down my cheek as I remember and miss my grandmother’s sloppy kisses – what I would give for just one more of those. I think we can reassure ourselves that, whilst the vehicle through which we and our children communicate evolves, the human condition of needing humble recognition remains unchanged.