I was meeting with a principal today, and I always enjoy talking to him because his conversations are typically the perfect blend of pushing my thinking and “Right! I totally get what you’re saying!” Even though we don’t always agree on everything, I consistently appreciate his insight, and always leave the room reflecting on our conversation. Today, we were discussing mindset, morale, and stories.
“Everyone has a story,” he said.
I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately, so the conversation was timely. I had a challenging childhood. When people find out about the details, they typically get all doe-eyed and apologize, which has always annoyed me. My story is what has made me who I am, for better or worse. For example, I am extremely perceptive to what is going on and how people feel around me. That has made me a great communicator and has given me the ability to adjust the way that I interact with people in order to make them more comfortable. I am also more empathetic than most. Annoyingly, that means that I cry at just about ANY movie, but between the perceptiveness and empathy, when I was a teacher, I could connect with my students and create a family-like community in my classroom. My story made me who I am and helped me develop my strengths.
Fast forward to now. I’ve been going through some challenges all around. Personally, professionally…even my dog just got diagnosed with Lyme’s (poor thing), and sometimes I get down and think that I can’t possibly wake up and smile at someone that day. It’s just not possible. Even the act of getting out of bed seems like a great feat. But, I go to work and look around, and remember that everyone has a story. Everyone is living that story right now, and rarely is it a fairytale. Everyone goes through rough times. At the end of the day, what really always matters is how you react to your situation. You can get up and decide to allow the issue to be a vortex that sucks you in, or you can choose a different path realize that in five years, what is happening now probably won’t matter, and you’ll have learned a great deal about yourself and those around you in the process. It’ll change who you are and make you into the person you’ll become. It’s the page you decide to flip to in your choose-your-own-adventure story (remember when we used to peek? SO wish I could do that). And when you go to work everyday, and you get tired or frustrated with the people around you, remember that they’re living their story as well, and we don’t know what’s on their pages or what chapter they’re on.
“Nobody should be able to dictate your morale.”
I’d add to that: the way you feel about yourself, your attitude, how you look at a situation, how you decide to learn and move forward, when you decide that you want great and average isn’t good enough…
And you all are shaking your head in enthusiastic agreement right now, but realistically, people-people, like teachers, are some of the worst offenders because we desire to please so desperately that it’s difficult not to allow someone’s opinion of us shape who we are, and there is a very fine line between reflecting on what other people think and making adjustments, and allowing that same opinion to shape our attitude.
So, no matter what the morale in a school is, who is making it that way? We should be the ones determining the attitude that we come to work with everyday. If we wake in the morning looking for a complaint, we will definitely find it. What would happen if we got out of bed looking forward to the things that we loved about our jobs the most? Knowing that irritating things can happen, but great things can happen as well, and took a little more time looking or those? Then passed on those positive vibes to someone else? The morale of a building is all about the people in it, and for it to change, everyone involved needs to make a conscious effort to be the person that they most want to work with. Don’t allow someone else to dictate your morale, and start believing in what will work instead of looking for what won’t.