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It’s All About Perspective

When I was in third grade, my dad added a room onto the back of our house. He planned for it to be done by Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t finished until a couple of days before Christmas. The couches my mom picked out arrived more than a month before the room was finished, so the solution was to pack two rooms’ worth of furniture snugly into our existing living room. As an 8-year-old, I remember thinking it was kind of cool that my sister and I could each have our own couch to lounge on while watching television, but I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t have my same level of joy. I also imagine my dad was highly encouraged to pick up the pace to finish construction as quickly as possible.
When the room was complete and the furniture was finally moved to its new location, it was December 23. My parents assumed they could convince my sister and me that we could just skip a Christmas tree that year, but you try telling third and fifth graders to skip something so monumentally important. So after a little begging, pleading, and pouting, we headed to the nursery to pick out a tree.
The store normally had hundreds of trees in a large covered area, but with Christmas upon us, there were only about 10. Of those 10 trees, only two or three still had needles. One tree looked pretty good from one side but had a trunk with a serious case of scoliosis. We purchased the crooked tree anyway, and my ever-handy dad found a way to wire it to the wall so that it would stay upright in the tree stand. With the good side facing the room, it was actually a pretty nice looking tree. Looking back, that is one of our more memorable holidays, and I know it was my favorite tree.
In everything we do, our view of the world is shaped by our point of view. Is it a living room packed full of furniture that elicits a sigh each time you pass by, or is it a room with a couch for each member of the family? Is it a sad Christmas tree that has an ugly side and a crooked trunk, or is it a tree that inspires a great story that’s worth sharing with friends and family and perhaps even on a blog?
In education we have plenty of opportunities to influence not only our own attitude but those of our teachers and students. Let me give you some examples and maybe some ways to reframe to create the best possible atmosphere for learning in our schools.
“We have to . . . ”
“Class, I know no one wants to do science fair, but let’s get out the paperwork so we can get it done.” How excited would you be to complete something presented this way? Yes, there are required projects in just about all grade levels and subjects, and we can think negative words in our heads, but it’s so important not to poison the attitudes of our students. And just like smiling when you aren’t happy can improve your mood, speaking positively about an assignment can create a little excitement in your own actions.
“I hate Mondays . . . especially those after a holiday.”
It might be a post on social media showing a crying baby with a caption that reads, “I don’t want to go back to school tomorrow!” It might be an announcement to class such as, “I know you would all rather be home today, but we have work to do.” We can unknowingly sabotage all of the learning that should be taking place by casting a dark cloud over our school. I recently saw a teacher post on Twitter saying, “I’m so excited to see my students tomorrow to hear all about their Thanksgiving celebrations!” What a great way to set the stage and let our students and teachers know they are important.
“I’m stuck with the (you fill in the blank) kids.”
One of the early ways new teachers are influenced is by sitting in the teachers’ lounge. There is usually a healthy dose of complaining, including a teacher or two lamenting about the students they are “stuck” with. It’s hard not to wish for an easier teaching assignment, but some of my most rewarding experiences were with students who struggled for a variety of reasons. We get a chance to grow, to try new things, and to see amazing progress when we work with students who are learning a new language, reading far below grade level, or having behavior problems or an array of other challenges. And let’s be honest, some of those “good” classes aren’t any easier than the rest.
But let’s be real. There are times we aren’t excited. There are times we are worn out. There are times when we really are burned out, don’t want to complete a task, and don’t really want to deal with a particular student or co-worker. Find a trusted confidant if you really need to unload, but do everything possible to allow only positive thoughts and words to define you. When you look for the good, you usually find it. Just like our crooked Christmas tree, it all depends on the side you choose to view.

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