Even the most creative people wouldn’t realize how great their potential was without being challenged to become better. The safe environment of approval leads to mediocrity and conformity. One of the greatest responsibilities of a teacher is to critique the work and achievements of his students. However, there is a thin line between constructive and destructive criticism. When students are exposed to severe judgments, their self confidence is affected and they are not motivated to work harder.
Whiplash, a 2014 movie, is a great example of how tough criticism affects students. Andrew Nieman and other students were being pushed beyond their boundaries by Terrence Fletcher – a professor who has a good explanation behind his actions: no musician becomes a legend without being driven to the very limit. If someone gives up along the way, he didn’t have the potential of becoming exceptional. Criticism can be a very effective tool for unleashing someone’s real capacity. The key to a successful critique is realizing how much “tough love” the student can take without being personally offended.
Unfortunately, our teachers don’t care about the way we receive their comments. Instead of pushing students towards improvement, teachers force us to take a step back. We are not motivated to express our opinions when we know that we cannot expect approval. Most students understand when the teacher is criticizing them for performing below their potential. However, the problem is that many educators don’t realize that there is a thin line between constructive criticism and bullying.
When criticism is provided as a benevolent, non-threatening opinion, students are motivated to improve their work. Constructive criticism should not only offer an honest opinion about someone’s achievements, but tips and motivation for improvements as well. That’s the only way for students to understand that teachers don’t mean any harm. When criticism turns into bullying, it involves a direct attack over the student’s personal values and undermines his chances to succeed. Instead of discovering the next big talent, the only thing a teacher achieves through destructive criticism is an environment of fear and anxiety.
Before becoming a successful educator, one has to be a psychologist first. It’s hard for a young student not to take things personally when the teacher doesn’t limit his criticism to the work involved. Direct attacks never motivate us to become better; they push us back within the limits of mediocrity. As students, we don’t want to try hard and be noticed by such teachers; all we want is to stay inconspicuous.