This past week I attended the National CUE conference in Palm Springs. There were many reasons to attend the conference, but one of the best was getting to hear George Couros speak. His book Innovator's Mindset is inspirational. Hearing him in person was even more so. (Yes, I have a little #educrush.) Of the many things I enjoyed from Mr. Couros's talk, the one that resonated the most was about making the positive louder than the negative.
While leaving one of the sessions a colleague of mine overheard a very dissatisfied attendee. He was complaining that the conference needed to be more organized in what they offered. He felt he was "above" whatever session he had just attended in terms of technology. Apparently he didn't understand that he could search the online sessions calendar for information geared towards those who were advanced in their tech ability. This is really besides the point. It was the fact that he couldn't find the positive in what he attended. While I found some of my sessions were not quite what I wanted, there was always something I could find. I chose to be positive in my learning. There is a rule to "vote with your feet". It means if you don't like the session you are in, find another one that would work better. Logistically there might be reasons to not leave a session, but there should be something you can get out of anything.
This experience made me think of the students in our classrooms and our colleagues. Students can't just get up and walk out of our classes. They tend to get in trouble if they try (sometimes even when they just need to use the restroom). So how can we ensure that they want to stay? I could talk about how you need to engage your students more, come up with innovative activities, or all of the other things I have written (or will write about) in my blog. However, it really is the relationship that a teacher has with the students that makes them want to stay. For them, YOU might be the only positive they have.
Recently, I was told of two occasions where there wasn't a lot of positive where students were concerned. One was a meeting for a student possibly going into special education. Thankfully no student was there. What made me incredibly sad about the situation was that there was nothing said about the student that was positive. Every child has something good. Why wasn't it shared at the meeting? The teacher who shared this experience with me was an outsider asked to attend. We were both appalled that no adult could find the positive. How do those adults affect the child when he/she is in their presence? Another occasion that was related to me was a teacher who was struggling with this year's class. The students tend to ignore directions/instruction and struggle with academics. The teacher has tried many things with the students, they are just a tough class (we've all had those). Unfortunately reaction to the class made it worse. Instead of praising those who are doing well, there was a lot of negative. The students have no reason now to listen or learn.
We all have our bad days. There are some where I walk into the classroom and tell my students I am not in a good mood. Some experts have said you should try to "fake it until you make it". In other words, pretend to be in a good mood, even if you aren't. Most of the time I agree. However, there are days you just can't. It's ok for students to see that you are not always at your best. I want them to see that I am not perfect, nor do I want them to be. With that said, I do let them know it is a temporary thing and their behavior/concern usually gets me out of whatever it was that got me in the wrong place to start with.
As Mr. Couros said, "We need to make the positives so loud, that the negatives are impossible to hear." Find at least one positive in each student/class/session. Will you be the positive that makes the student want to be in your classroom or the negative that gives them another reason to want to leave?
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching