For years, I’ve had these words hanging on a wall that faces my desk: Your attitude about X says nothing about X and everything about your heart.
I’m not telling you to believe them, but I’m saying there may be a strategic advantage to taking them seriously.
When I approach Problem In the Classroom X with an attitude that says,
- “I will learn from this,” and
- “There are solutions to this,” and
- “This is interesting,”
I’m positioning myself to experience autonomy, a key factor in motivation. When I’m motivated, I’m happier, stronger.
On the other hand, when I approach Problem In the Classroom X with an attitude that says,
- “That kid’s just a jerk,” and
- “This sucks,” and
- “This is just the way it is,”
I’ve got nothing to do but live with the problem. I become helpless, which makes me demotivated, which makes me sadder, weaker.
John Wooden, who viewed himself as a teacher first and foremost, considered one of his chief jobs that of learning human nature — his own nature as well as that of other people. “Understanding human nature is absolutely crucial to a [teacher]’s success,” he writes in My Personal Best.
With this last bit of the school year, will you modify your attitude toward the problems you’ve made peace with so that you can learn from them before summer starts? Remember: the most burnt out teachers never thought they’d end up that way. The journey was a slow, attitudinal shift, one class period and colleague complaining session at a time.