The power of a little teacher praise

Dr. Marcus Jackson, principal of Pointe South Elementary in Jonesboro, is the author of the self-published children’s book, “Because My Teacher Said I Can.”

The book –– in his words –– has been labeled as the “little engine that could” for teachers.

“Because My Teacher Said I Can,” tells the story of a 7-year-old boy, who is motivated to do his best in school, because of the inspirational words imparted to him by his teacher, said Jackson. It also focuses on the benefits of teacher praise, and attention given to students with learning and behavior problems.

It was inspired by a true story, during Jackson’s stint as principal at Hawthorne Elementary School, in Hampton. He said there was a young boy, who was struggling in class, and was mocked by his peers for getting all the answers wrong.

As a result of the taunting, the student threw a “temper tantrum” in front of the class, according to Jackson. The boisterous student was then sent to Jackson’s office by his teacher to be disciplined for his action. When the student arrived in his office, Jackson said, his intention was to suspend him for his irate behavior. In the process of doing so, however, something shifted in the young boy’s attitude.

While sitting in Jackson’s office, the student’s eyes begin to wonder around the room. Jackson recalled that the child became fixated on a poster hanging on the wall. It was a poster of a little boy sitting on a basketball, which read “Believe in yourself –– all things are possible.”

The curious student asked Jackson if he (Jackson) was the young boy sitting on the basketball in the poster. Jackson said, yes, he was the boy in the poster, eventhough he was not the child on the poster. He told the young boy in his office that the poster was a representation of himself (Jackson) and all that he had accomplished in his life.

The young student’s continence fell sharply, Jackson said. In a small, sad voice, he told Jackson he was the dumbest first-grade student in the world.

“He asked me not to suspend him,” said Jackson. “I told him what he had done in class warrants a suspension.”

To Jackson’s amazement, the student caught him by surprise when he then replied that it would not be good for Jackson to suspend him from school, because, “I need to be in school.”

“That [comment] caught my eye,” Jackson said. “I called his teacher. She told me not suspend him, and [to] send him back to class.”

From that instance, something “magical happened” for that student, said Jackson. “I saw him two hours later, arguing with two other students in the hallway. He said, this time, he was defending himself about how smart he was.”

Jackson jovially said he asked the student what made him think he was so smart. The student turned to him, Jackson said, with conviction in his eyes, and replied, “Because my teacher said I’m smart.”

“From that moment, the same student who said he was the dumbest student in the world, was walking the hallways with so much confidence –– or swag, as the young people like to call it. That student is now in the third-grade, and on the honor roll.”

Jackson said he was attending an event and was telling the story to some colleagues, and in the middle of sharing his story, he said there were representatives from the educational TV show, “Sesame Street,” who overheard his conversation and inspired him to write a children’s book.

“I never imagined myself to be a children’s book author, but once I witnessed the power of teacher praise, I knew this story was worth writing,” he said.

The book took about a year to put together, and was released through Author House Publishing in August of this year. Since the release of the book –– according to Jackson –– he has already sold 400 copies. He said the book has also helped one of his students, Draethon Alexander, a first-grader at Pointe South Elementary, who could not read.

“He came to us from Grenada,” Jackson said. Grenada is one of the six islands in the southeastern part of the Caribbean. He said Alexander confided in Louise Tombs, a second-grade teacher at Pointe South, that he could not read. Tombs said she took Alexander under her wing and began to tutor him.

“All the teacher’s rallied around him, and we assured him that he would be able to read,” she said. The book they started off with was none other than Jackson’s book, “Because My Teacher Said I Can.”

Jackson said within the first four weeks of school, Alexander was not only reading at his grade level, but beyond. “This is just an example of what I see happening on a daily basis,” he said. “I watch teachers take these kids from these low-income communities, and they walk into our building with so much baggage, and our teachers are able to motivate and inspire them –– simply because our teachers tell [students] they can.”

To show just how far Alexander had come, Jackson ordered the office receptionist to call Alexander out of his class to come to his office. When Alexander arrived, he sat down at the miniature table positioned in the middle of Jackson’s office, and without hesitation, began to read his favorite book, titled, “My Friend,” as instructed by Jackson.

With a few minor hiccups on some words, Alexander read the entire book, effortlessly. Like a proud father, Jackson peered down at Alexander and said, “Good job.” Alexander seemed to grow two inches taller has he held his head high, and beamed a bright smile.

Jackson said his book will be the first of many to come.

For those who may be interested in purchasing “Because My Teacher Said I Can,” said Jackson, the book is available at the following web sites: barnesandnoble.com; amazon.com; and authorhouse.com. To learn more about the book, he said, people can visit Twitter, and Facebook, My Teacher Inspired Me.


posterchild 3 years, 11 months ago

Maybe Dr. Jackson (and those in charge of him) should take a look at how he treats the teachers/staff in his building...


HappyFeet 3 years, 11 months ago

Inspiring story. Educators like you (Dr. Jackson) provide hope for our students. I'm going to order a copy of the book for my classroom and one for my friend's classroom as well.


SAnderson 3 years, 11 months ago

Great story! Keep up the good work. More principals like you are needed!


SAnderson 3 years, 11 months ago

Not sure if my comment posted. Great job Dr. Jackson! More principals like you are needed!


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