Last Monday, administration engaged in conversation around the book Fostering Resilient Learners. I had the opportunity to facilitate the conversation with the secondary principals and assistant principals. The dialogue was rich and honest. The consensus in the room was that we must look at what trauma our students are going through, and then we must understand how our responses and interactions play a role in perpetuating the trauma or a role in helping to heal the trauma. I can't help but wonder what would happen if we began to chip away at the negativity in our society? What if instead of honking and yelling at the driver that cuts us off, we took a deep breath and recognized that the other driver made a mistake, a mistake that we more than likely have made once in our lives as well. We could brush it off and experience it as a moment amongst many larger and more important moments in our lives. The thirty seconds we save on expending negative energy is thirty seconds we don't model negative behavior for the youngsters that might be sitting in our backseat. Yes, I too have yelled and been consumed with anger merely because another driver made a poor choice. I in turn made another poor choice that potentially created a cycle of this behavior with my own children. In order to break the cycle I must consciously break the automatic response.
I can't help but think about Ivan Pavlov and his study on classical conditioning from the 1890's. Pavlov's dogs over time began to salivate at the site of anyone in a lab coat since they had been conditioned that they would receive food from those individuals. Ironically, we seem to see this phenomena of conditioning when we look at cycles of negative behavior. It plays just as a much of a role when we are looking at the impact of positive reinforcement. I am not talking about extrinsic motivations, dangling a carrot to entice someone to perform. I am talking about the intrinsic motivation that we all have from birth. Think about that feeling of euphoria when you nail a presentation and you receive kudos from your colleagues. Or, that amazing feeling of gratitude for life when a baby giggles and smiles at the mere site of your face.
We CAN change the reality that many of us don't like. We can commit to positively reinforce the actions and behaviors that we want to see in our colleagues, our students, and ultimately our society. We must reinforce what is being done well. We must highlight and showcase the strengths of our peers and our students. We must mend any mistrust and replace it with open and honest communication. Don't be afraid to have those that you are leading come out from the shadows and shine bright. True leaders are able to create more leaders and empower those that they lead to be the absolute best they can be.
There are many examples of this throughout our district. Grange Middle School has a staff shout out wall (saw that on Twitter). Many sites recognize staff at the beginning of their staff meetings. Some of you leave a positive note behind after visiting a classroom. Remember, what we model with our staff, they will in turn model with the students. :)
|Grange Middle school has a wall for staff shout outs!!|
Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence!