Whenever I hear the phrase “Make good choices!” it makes me smile and brings me back to my elementary teaching days. It always seemed like a blanket statement that could mean just about anything. “Make good choices!” could translate to “Don’t hit your neighbor!” or “Throw away your scrap paper!” or “Don’t jump and hit the exit sign on the way down the hall!” It was a firm but friendly reminder that everything we do is a choice, and every choice we make has consequences. But, the choices we make go so far beyond just our actions. There are choices we make internally every day as well, and they can determine our mood, our relationships, and our interactions with others. Sometimes, I just think that those choices aren’t as obvious because they happen inside ourselves.
I’ve often written about choosing to trust and choosing to take a risks, but because we work in a people focused profession, we make more decisions internally that affect both the way we operate and the people around us. We can also choose the affect that people have us, and this might actually be one of the most important choices we make.
I once worked in a school where I did not work well with another teacher. Our personalities were vastly different, as were our teaching styles, and even our attitudes towards teaching were not the same. There were times where I felt like I was being berated, and times where I would go home from work crying because I allowed the way she treated me to affect me. I had made the choice, subconsciously at the time, to allow this person to bring me down. To make me think something about myself that I didn’t actually believe was true.
I have since realized, however, that the choice of allowing someone to make me feel something is entirely mine, and disliking someone for what they’ve done or who they are is not only giving them power over my thoughts, but making their unhappiness too important in my life. Nobody is responsible for choosing my reactions, my attitude, and my actions except me. And, it’s really not fair to the people around me, little or big, that my attitude reflects my choice of allowing negativity to affect me.
Sometimes, we tell others that they should just forget what someone has said to them, or let stuff “bounce off us” or “go in one ear and out the other”, but in reality, it takes a significant amount of mental and emotional effort to do any of those things. A friend of mine once told me that when people say things about him or to him that he disagrees with, that he acknowledges it and puts the thought away. Even thought it’s really just a change in mindset, I feel like this is a less negative way to deal with unwanted information. And like my friend Marypat says, negativity is exhausting. All of us need less of that in our lives.
Going into a new school year and having multiple discussions with people about climate and culture, I think that taking control of how you choose to let other people affect you is especially important. There will almost be that person who is disengaged from their profession, or who is ready to retire, and it is so much harder to be positive when people around you are dripping with negativity. But, we can choose to continue to be positive because when it comes down to it, we aren’t there for those people anyway. We are there for the kids, and they deserve to have the most positive, best teachers and role models that we can muster.
This is not an easy endeavor. It requires a significant amount of self-reflection and self-control to be able to recognize when what we feel is a choice, and then making the choice to feel something entirely different. But if we want a positive climate and to create a strong culture, especially if we are attempting to repair it, looking inside ourselves for our options as to how we want to move forward and be for our students should be our first stop. Change will always start with us.
Always one of my favorite quotes:
So, choose positive…both inside and out.