Monday, October 24, 2016

Fight for Your Life.

I have just returned from dropping a meal off to a colleague currently fighting breast cancer.  She's one of those people who has an infectious smile, and an even more infectious love of teaching.  She's organized, has high expectations, and optimism that reaches far into the stratosphere, and all of those characteristics are exactly how she is facing this most recent setback in her life.  I wondered on the drive home whether I would have the determination and positive outlook she is currently demonstrating.  I know it is genuine, because her makeup was perfect, and her eyes weren't the least bit puffy! 

I decided to reward myself with some social media time, plopped on the sofa and opened up Facebook, and was immediately greeted with an invitation to a Caringbridge page for another teacher, from the same school, who was diagnosed less than a week ago with leukemia.  A father of a 3, 1.5 and newborn, on day #2 of chemotherapy, will be out for probably the rest of the school year as he engages in this battle.  Suffice it to say, it's one of those days where it's difficult to feel happy.

Positively Positive.

Absotively, posilutely, these two teachers, and countless others in classrooms around the world, are amazing human beings.  What are the characteristics of an ill teacher?  They are the ones who write lesson plans for substitutes at 3 am in the bathroom, while wretching.  They are the ones who worry about their long-term substitutes while getting chemotheraphy. Ill teachers spend their positive energy trying to figure out how to finagle a second teacher laptop so that their substitute can have one while they work at home when they feel strong enough to do so.  Critically ill teachers inspire the well teachers in the trenches to celebrate their own health with an attitude of gratitude, and make us feel that we have an added responsibility to be just a little bit more dedicated to the profession they are unable to practice this year, just to pick up the slack.

It is no secret to the positive psychologists that health is directly impacted by attitude.  I have no doubt that both of my colleagues have the mental medicine necessary to beat their cancers  with the power of positivity.  They've both practiced theirs for years, and taught many students as well.  Growth Mindset guru, Carol Dweck, and Kathleen Horst are currently studying the impact of attitude on cancer, and there is a direct correlation. Dweck and Horst report that "following breast cancer patients over time, we see that those who maintain a sense of their own identity rather than perceiving cancer to be taking over their identity show fewer signed of emotional distress over time. " 

For these two friends, and many others, the sense of identity that they have, and the positive attitude that they demonstrate, reside in front of two dozen (or more) desks filled with learners who are waiting for their teachers to return, yet are already learning the value of positive thinking.

So what is it that you can't seem to face this week?  I'm positive that you can. 

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