The Power Of Constructive Feedback: A Look At West Houston Students Self Image

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By: Dr. Rodney Johnson --


Once confidence is lost, a child’s self-esteem may suffer irreversible damage that affects social and academic performance for the rest of their life. When dealing with kids, ALL of the good that we do can be undone by one negative comment or action. The psyche of a kid is so fragile that year after year of great gains can be undone in an instant by ONE mean, careless, or insensitive statement. As a principal, I challenged my teachers and staff to look at life through a student’s eyes. Not to dismiss their hardships by implanting the success which is yours (i.e., I’ve got mine…you get yours). I asked teachers to figuratively change places with those you teach and reflect on this statement.


            “When you look at me, who do you see? Do you see who I am today…or do you see        who I can become at some point in the future?”

Positive comments in school and at home can catapult a child’s confidence and motivate a student to over achieve in school. According to studies conducted by Purdue University, there are six ways to address an individual’s ability to defend against negative comments.

1.    Learn how to positively handle conflict,

2.    Learn how to communicate your feelings,

3.    Learn how to create a fine balance,

4.    Learn how to increase the positives in your life,

5.    Learn how to express your concerns without criticizing, and

6.    Learn how to connect by sharing goals.


No matter the age, my experience leads me to believe that negative comments have detrimental effects on individuals, especially on students in grades EC – 8. And even though high school students and young adults seem immune to negative comments, research shows that older kids tend to turn negative comments inward. Negative feelings most definitely chips away at motivation, self-esteem, and academic confidence. The internalization of negative attitudes festers for years in many students who may eventually exhibit behaviors that hinder academic performance in later years.


The Magic Ratio


Individuals have 25,000 to 50,000 direct and indirect experiences every week. According to John Gottman, the magic ratio is 5 to 1. For every one negative experience, a child must hear 5 positive experiences or affirmations. Stable, happy, confident, and motivated students hear and share more positive experiences however; creating a balance is a tricky proposition for parents. Once that negative experience is out there…it can’t be taken back. So it behooves us all to find ways to compliment kids and young adults. Even when they are not so loveable, when they make mistakes, when they color outside the lines, talk back, or fail to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Students have to be encouraged to experiment without fear of failure. Psychology Today says that constructive feedback is essential for negotiating life and social relations. Much of our growth and development depends on criticism however; constructive criticism is more likely to produce positive results. Robert Sutton of Stanford University says that constructive criticism is very difficult to do well. Kids learn by learning how to recognize, then analyze and fix their mistakes therefore; parents and teachers must master the skill of constructive feedback. 



Dr. Johnson formed EducationWiseLLC in April of 2010. He is committed to connecting to community outreach efforts for at-risk youth and is constantly recruiting high quality professionals to serve charter and public school systems. Dr. Johnson received his undergraduate degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and his masters from the University of North Texas. He earned his doctorate in May 2005 from Stephen F. Austin University.

Dr. Johnson brings more than 30 years of educational experience to EducationWise. Ten years as a high school math teacher and over 20 years as an administrator in both the elementary and high school level. He served as a teacher in Richardson ISD and Dallas ISD before moving into administration in Dallas ISD. It was in these early years that informed Dr. Johnson’s philosophy relative to teaching and learning for all students, especially underrepresented groups. In 2003, he continued to serve public schools as a high school administrator in Alief ISD…a suburb of Houston Texas.

For the past three years, along with becoming a business person, Dr. Johnson has continued to sharpen his skills as an instructional leader and teaching and learning expert working with principals and teachers in low performing school districts. In addition to serving as Executive Coach and Pedagogy Facilitator for a major school turnaround company, Dr. Johnson also served as the Mentor Program Coordinator in2011 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.

For more information or to contact Dr. Johnson: and the website is

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