I grew up believing there was always something about me, my friendships, my school performance, and my athletic achievement that could and should improve. I was hard on myself and I believed I thrived when I focused on what I could do better. I grew up, parented like I was parented and taught like I was taught. Tough is good. Suck it up. Great job, but you would be better if….
It took what I would call a significant “kick in the pants” in my role as principal to realize that most respond to a celebration of success with more drive to improve than a list of critical feedback. Recently, I started reading a fun book, Together Is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration. It’s a small book filled with smart thinking and funny pictures. One page that sticks out to me has this quote, “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” Of course, principals are leaders but so are teachers….we lead our students each day we teach them. In the last few months, I have been testing this theory in my personal and professional life.
It’s crazy how effective my smile, my words of encouragement, and my ability to use a lens of optimism have been! Daily, I actively search for someone to compliment. I smile and say hello to every child and adult I pass in the hallway. I send notes and emails complimenting teachers on their instruction or how they have structured their classrooms. And I am noticing our world is better. Everyone is giving their full effort. Students are making more positive behavior choices. Teachers are initiating their own learning opportunities. I think encouragement is the difference. I think….But maybe the difference is only my perspective.
We are entering a tough stretch as educators. The glimmer of a new school year is worn. Thanksgiving break is many weeks away. Conference nights are around the corner. Fatigue becomes real. As we move forward, I am going to remember the power of positive. It’s natural to see our work as less than perfect, but I’m guessing I”m not much different from you. When the day to day pressures of interacting with students, parents and colleagues begin to wear us down, we all win when we follow Norman Vincent Peale’s wise words, “Change your thoughts and you can change your world.”