Every week my brain gets fixated on one topic that I just can’t quite seem to get off my mind. This week’s topic seems to be how to let go of the things we cannot control. After another long week filled with office visits, parent communication (not always supportive or positive) and meetings, my general attitude lately has been kind of negative and feeling overwhelmed with my inability to solve issues. I keep looking for a magic wand, but I have not found one yet, so I have come around to something I said myself a couple of years ago when talking to a fellow administrator about the state of affairs in her building- If you are not happy with the way things are, then fix it.
That sounds simple enough…just a minute I need that magic wand again …
I buckled down in the car yesterday on our way back from a hockey tournament to read a book written by Baruti K. Kafele, called “Closing the Attitude Gap”. His general premise in the book, as it seemed to me, was to not settle when it comes to our students. We need to hold them accountable and make them believe that they can accomplish great things by not giving them excuses. Many of them come from lives that are not ideal and bring baggage of various kinds with them when they come to our buildings every day. I know it is easy for us to slide into that mode where we start thinking all of these extraneous influences are overwhelming and we cannot fight against the tide. It can seem that no matter what we do at times, it won’t matter that much. Compound this with having large numbers of students in our classrooms, overwhelming curricular demands, assessments, report cards, conferences and the list can go on and on.
I have said many times to my staff, “we have to concentrate on what we can control and do what we can do to help these children for the hours they are in our care.” Principal Kafele challenges everyone reading his book to take a long, hard look at ourselves and remind ourselves why we are teachers. What made us become teachers in the beginning? What do we want to accomplish as teachers?
If my attitude is negative, how will I ever have a positive affect on the staff and students in my building? I think it is time to start following my own advice. I need to start with the things I can control such as my relationship with kids. I can make a better effort to get to know them, build relationships with every student in the building. Last week I had a conversation with a student who told me he was not comfortable telling me things because he had only had negative feedback from me. First of all, good job on the part of that student for being so brutally honest with the principal, because I know that wasn’t easy. What he told me stung, but also moved me to change my attitude. I will make a better effort with this student and many others in the building who I do not know well yet. Now that is something I can control and I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.
The other night I had a phone call from a parent after supper in the evening. This parent works long hours and it can be difficult to reach her during the day. I had sent a note home asking her to call me when it worked for her. We had a great talk on the phone about her child and what he needed for support. She was not aware of what a positive effect that conversation had on my state of mind at that time. That is just it, isn’t it? We can be unaware of what affect the smallest act can have on our students, both positive or negative. Just as this parent lifted my spirits by what she said, she could have just as easily left me feeling down had she reacted differently.
Students need to know we care and will make an effort to get to know them. We need to make their lives important, but not an excuse for bad attitude. We need to remind ourselves of the reasons we went into teaching to begin with. We do not teach curriculum, we do not teach outcomes or subjects, we teach students.