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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

5 thoughts to be more positive: The thin line between venting and negativity

We've all been there; had a bad day, students didn't listen, lesson didn't go well, students misbehaved, trouble on the home front, seems like nothing will go right, etc... Sometimes we have to talk about it, or vent. There is something to be said about talking about our problems. Somehow it gives us some control back, even when it feels like things are spinning out of control. There is a relief that comes with this, our problems can be reduced and managed by talking about them. We gain some semblance of peace back in our lives.

Then there are those days when we have to do more than vent. We complain and we belittle. We twist the notion of venting and turn it into a pity session. We seek relief by tearing down others. We get to the point where we need things to go wrong to validate our negativity. Instead of venting and releasing some frustration for how our day went, we pour more fuel on the fire and aren't satisfied until we burn others in the flames.

We have to be careful that we don't allow ourselves to get to point that we are becoming the problem. Negativity can and will tear you down. Bitterness and anger will lead to misery. Our attitude about a situation is probably more important than the actual event itself. Many people have come from tough circumstances and made a great life and are happy despite dealing with less than desirable events. Other people spend their entire life miserably hung up with every little thing that goes wrong. Its the classic glass half empty and half full way of looking at life.

None of that is really news, an important reminder, yes, but nothing new. But here's where I worry. When we begin to be negative about our job, or students, or other staff it will become very hard to look at things objectively. If I am upset about a student and talk about how much they annoy me, it becomes increasingly harder for me to effectively work with them. Sure this student can be a problem, but my attitude about them can make things worse. If the faculty room has become a place where venting has turned into venom it may be time for a change of scenery and attitude.

Being a teacher is tough, dealing with people all day is never easy. However, if we look negatively at students and other staff members we will actually make our job harder. How can you really help out a needy student if you continually complain about them? End of the year is tough and some of those things our students say and do become more and more frustrating. If we talk poorly about them, there is no way that it won't affect the way we treat them and work with them. Our venting session can become a bastion of negativity and affect our performance with not only a particular student, but every student as well. We must make sure we don't cross that line.

One of the things that has helped me over the years are a few thoughts I was lucky enough to pick up early in my career. These sayings/philosophies have helped not to get to the point of negativity:

1. Treat every student like they are your favorite. This thought alone is transformational and solves many problems before they exist. Think about the effect if every student really believed that they were your favorite. Not only would they try to live up to that expectation, but you would see much more of the good in them than the not so good.

2. My grandmother was a songwriter/musician. One of my favorite songs that she wrote was called "Make it a good day" The overall message is the same as what is stated in the title in that you have some say into whether it will be a bad or a good day, so do what is necessary to make it a good day.

3. Never have two bad days in a row. One of my core thoughts was that I would never allow two bad days in a row. I found that when I changed what I did, how I interacted, my attitude, the lesson, how I handled situations; I was able to solve most things myself. Sometimes though I needed to get after a student and help them fix themselves, every once in a while this might extend to the whole class.

4. "How can I help this young man/young woman out?" The first job I had was with an extremely difficult population to work with. One of the staff was always able to help calm down the mood when people were getting negative. If you have this thought when talking about difficult people (or just any person) it will help you see them as a person and you will be much more likely to see past faults.

5. Forgive. One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to forgive. We all make mistakes. None of us wants to have every misdeed we have done held over our head. We hope that others would forgive us when we fail to live up to expectations. We can give ourselves a great gift by doing the same for others when they let us down or make mistakes. Education is as much about helping people pick themselves up after failing as anything else we do. Forgiveness is powerful and creates an atmosphere of improvement, not one of punishment.

End of the year can be tough, don't make it tougher by being negative. Choose to be positive and lead by example. Your students and fellow staff will appreciate the guidance and try harder to live up your example.

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