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Thursday, December 22, 2016

There's No Room for Negativity

It is sometimes easy to become negative at school.

Generally negativity arises from repeated instances of lack of support, communication, resources, voice, and choice. Negativity arises when you feel like you try and try and try with no gain.

But there's no room for negativity. Instead we must face the issues head-on with a balanced view and strategic process.

For example, if a teacher is negative about having no time during the day, he/she has to advocate for more time. I know an educator who only has about a 20-minute break to eat lunch during a whole school day where she's responsible for teaching 25 very needy students. That's ridiculous. There's no way that teacher can teach well with that little time for planning and for personal needs.

Over the years as I've spoken to this teacher, the conditions for teaching well have collapsed in her school. Leadership turnover, lack of staffing, outdated buildings, little to no technology, health/social problems, and lack of community support have challenged everything that happens in her school system. The students from this under-cared-for system will be our neighbors and fellow citizens someday. Our lack of support for them now will result in troubling social issues later on. Why can't we support them now?

That teacher complains, but stays positive. Yet she doesn't feel she has the voice to advocate. Yet the students miss out due to that lack of advocacy.

Truly it would be great if she and her colleagues could get together and start a movement towards betterment. It would be even better if the state was on the lookout for these systems and help them to get what they need. Do they truly lack the support needed or are funds being misused in ways that don't result in student support?

In the system where I work, we have good time for planning and personal needs. I have a super schedule which has become better over the years. As a result I am able to do more for my students. We are also mostly well staffed, so I have the human resources to help me teach all the students. And, compared to other systems, our students' needs are small overall. Some systems are working with dramatic numerous needs.

The issues that I sometimes get negative about include timely, transparent, and inclusive communication--I find that the more I know, the better I can do and when I hear of new initiatives late and don't have the details, my work with children suffers. I also can get negative about my desire for greater voice and choice. I wish I had more freedom to use my experience and education to teach well. Sometimes I'm directed to do work that doesn't match the research I've done or experience I have and that's frustrating. I can also get frustrated about wasted time and resources when I can see a better way. I try to express the ideas I have in respectful ways. I also understand that I don't know it all and it takes all of us working together to do the best possible work. With little time for collaboration that can be frustrating, but we keep working towards better and better collaboration to support our programming.

Truly, negativity typically takes us backwards rather than forward. When people are very negative it's usually because they feel that they have no voice or choice--they feel powerless, and that feeling can lead to negativity.

Turning that around starts with the questions:
  • What do you need? 
  • How can I help? 
  • What can we do differently? 
  • How can we employ strategic process to make positive change? 
There's no room for negativity if we want to build positive places for teaching and learning.