Do You Choose to be Optimistic or Pessimistic?
How Would You Feel If.....
I recently posed these three questions to my students:
- How would you feel if someone was having a bad day and took it out on you?
- How would you feel if people always thought you were in trouble or did something wrong?
- How would you feel if someone used sarcasm with you?
They responded in emojis in the chart below:
I had a candid conversation with my 7th graders about choice. We can choose what we say and how we act, however we cannot control what other people do or say. We have control over our mindset and we can choose to be positive or negative. Optimistic or pessimistic. Kind or mean. Humble or arrogant. Based on our words and actions, people may or may not choose to spend time with us.
I gave them an example, if someone is having a bad day and takes it out on me. I cannot control their mindset, however I can choose not to engage with that person. As I have gotten older, I want to spend time with people who lift me up, are a positive force and make me feel better. Not those that want to knock me down, are negative and try to make me feel bad.
As I spend more time teaching 6th-8th graders, I have noticed a significant change from mid-7th grade to the end of 8th grade. It seems as thought students become less patient and spend less time with those who make poor choices or are constantly being negative.
Sarcasm is a touchy subject and I have any conversations regarding how sarcasm can hurt and be misinterpreted. I am not afraid to pull students aside or have personal conversations about how their words and actions might be pushing people away. Most of the time, they do not even realize what is happening.
I recall having a conversation with a student and the exact nature escapes me now. She was upset about something that had happened and now she needed to deal with it. I think I said something to the effect of, "That ship has sailed, we have no control over that, so now we have to deal with what is happening right now." I calmed her down and we moved forward.
I compromise and negotiate with my students all the time, it is a life skill. We work together to reach an agreement whenever possible. I reflected on all this as I am reading the following professional resource:
Deliberate Optimism: Reclaiming the Joy of Education
This post was inspired by our current Professional Reading Circle book by Debbie Silver, Jack Berckmeyer and Judith Baenen.
I love the guiding questions on page 8 regarding how we can make thoughtful and evidence-based decisions. When I was district lead teacher, I recall one of the other building lead teachers telling me, "Everyone......." Finally I asked, who is everyone? Can you please be more specific? If I hear, "All the students......" Who specifically? What percentage or number of students? I am a research and data nerd. I also make thoughtful decisions. If I am going to believe or implement something, I do my homework. I am one to listen, process, think and then act. I typically do not make snap decisions unless absolutely necessary.
In the past few years, schools have had to make difficult decisions regarding programs, staffing, athletics, the arts, etc. Rumors were flying at one time about what people were hearing or insinuating, etc. My response to people was, "Until someone calls me into an office and tells me that my position has been cut, I do not want to hear the gossip." I read the budget presentations posted after BOE meetings (thanks to my admin program I actually understand what I am reading) and ignore the "buzz". It has decreased my stress level immensely.
Establish What You Can Control and Seek Tools and Strategies to Help You Maximize Your Power:
I also love the table on page 13. There are so many components of our jobs that are out of our control, but we need to look deeper at what we actually can control.
I have become a big advocate of, "This is out of our control, it is what it is, however moving forward......." I recall saying this when our new teacher evaluation protocol was put in place by the state.
It is also the philosophy of our district that we have no control over testing or state mandates, however we can control what goes on in our classrooms, how we teach and what we use to teach. We are extremely proud, as a middle school, that we write our own units while adhering to the CCSS and IB-MYP standards. We feel a great deal of ownership and pride in what we have created.
Be Honest with Yourself
Do you choose optimism or pessimism? Do you choose to make the best out of situations, not focus on the what we cannot control, but rather on what we can control?
I often hear people say, "I don't really care what other people think." I have found that one sentence has a variety of meanings.
To me, it means I will stand up for what I believe in, advocate for what I think is right and always keep students at the center of my decisions, to name a few. However, it does not mean being offensive, saying things that could possibly hurt others or making decisions that have a negative impact on those around me. One of the most meaningful compliments I have received from people is what a positive light I am to other people. That I am important to so many. It's hard to see that in myself because I am just me, what you see is what you get. I am real and passionate and live very much in the present. It is an absolute honor to be told that.
I am careful about using that sentence with students. I encourage them, rather, to be individuals, to stand up for what they believe in, to advocate for what they see is right (if not always popular) and to make decisions that are best for them. In addition I encourage and model respect for others, having a growth mindset, being proactive rather than reactive and being responsible, empathetic, global citizens.
If we say to them, "Don't care what other people think." what meaning are we also attaching to that? There is no right or wrong answer. Just something to ponder.
Do we choose to focus on what we can control or get caught up in the "woulda, shoulda, coulda" out of our control? Do we lift people around us and focus on the positive? Or do we bring them down by focusing too much on the negative? Do we state a problem and offer solutions? Or do we complain and state problem after problem with no proactive advice to offer.
I am looking forward to reading more......