Monday, January 5, 2015

The Day of Positivity

I had no idea when I suggested the blog topic for today to the folks at Te@chthought, that January 5th is actually "The Day of Positivity".  (Or, at least, it appears to be the case in a pineapple under the sea....)  I found this out because it is actually a trending topic on Twitter.

Some of the better suggestions include the possibility of winning waffles for a year, donating blankets to an animal rescue facility, and wearing shirts, comprised of the elements to spell BaCON.  Some skeptics surmise that this Day of Positivity thing is all dreamed up by Twitter to trend something on a dreary day, that for many is the first work day in the new year.

For me,, no one said it better than Jaco Marais:

5h5 hours ago
You Can't Live A Positive Life, With A Negative Mind.

 While I don't know Jaco personally, I fully embrace his mindset.  (Bring on Carol Dweck!)

How do I stay positive and share/encourage that positivity in my students?

Nothing makes a teacher more discouraged than a discouraged student.  It's easy to walk away from the kids who simply DON'T CARE, and mumble something about attitude adjustment, hoping for a new start on a different day.  For me, the most devastating thing is when I see a student glum, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.

It's a bit like answering a crying newborn:
  • Hungry?
  • Uncomfortable?
  • Tired?
  • Overwhelmed?
  • All of the above?
 Yes, even high school kids can exhibit the signs.  Except now, in addition to being able to shatter glass with ear-piercing decibel screams, they can also announce themselves via social media.

7h7 hours ago

Poor Julia.  I don't know her, and I am still devastated for her.  Somebody somewhere in that school or her house is letting her down.  The fact that she is starting her day DREADING a positive school experience before the sun is even up is downright wrong. 

Sure, there are days when my life is less than sunny.  But the contagiousness of negativity can suck the life out of me, and if I am miserable, so are those around me.  I truly think that I could conjure up an angry mob after an 82 minute period of captivity in my room, unleashing them into the crowded hallways, but I feel a responsibility to the world, so I do my best to suppress that energy.  

Allowing student collaboration in their learning certainly breeds the excitement necessary for many -- including me.  Student-created rubrics for projects and papers almost always result in finished products far superior to the rubrics I create for my classes.  Is it positive psychology?  Is it bribery?  Am I fooling myself?  If it works, I don't need to answer any of those questions.  I do know, however, that when my students design their own rubrics, the quality of the work is vastly better -- often as much as a full letter grade higher when scored on the "old" rubrics I had used.  I also use humor and motivation whenever possible.  Some of my motivational tools are seemingly more educational -- like Shawn Achor's TED Talk, and others are just those little "human" touches that teachers get to share every now and then, like Pearl, the Opossum Expert.  (I've actually bought clothing from her website.  Try to be negative after watching Pearl!)

In reality, I love my job, my district, and the kids with whom I work.  (Almost all the time!)  I do my best to create an environment which is a shared experience for learning, rather than a dictatorial regime with me at the helm.   Establishing some basic amenities for focus or distraction (like a spare piece of fruit or two in the closet for someone who missed breakfast, or blankets for when the air conditioning/heat is less than desirable) has nearly won me the yearbook superlative title of "Coziest Classroom" (although I understand I'm neck and neck with Amanda Shaffer on this one...)

So, on this Day of Positivity, how can we stay positive?  Let's start by realizing that we're all human.  And that somehow, we make a difference.  Some of us when we arrive in a room, and others when we leave.

Here's hoping Julia found something worthwhile today.  She deserves some happiness, and I don't believe that Spongebob, no matter how terrific his movie is,  will be the key.