Optimism is not just butterflies and rainbows. It's not just faking being happy, or just putting a smile on our face. It's not "positive vibes only"- definitely not that. Optimism is just knowing that whatever the circumstance, something good is going to come from it. You may not be able to see what the positive outcome is, but knowing it's there... good or bad. Being naturally optimistic is not easy. It requires intentionality and persistence if it doesn't come natural to you. Everybody can be optimistic. I just know it.
Teachers are in the sales business. Plain and simple- we're selling life-long learning, and inspiration is our currency. In sales and marketing there is a formula for building trust and it is: sincerity + competence = trust. So before we earn anybody's trust, we must establish these two foundations. Here is a sample of some questions students might ask in order to establish whether sincerity and competence are available:
Do I like you? Can you teach physics effectively? (or whatever subject you teach)
Do you like me? Can you teach it at AP level?
Are you going to help me? How well do your former students perform at college?
Will you help my classmates? How many of your former students have graduated in physics?
Are you fair in your evaluations? Will your exams and assignments prepare me for the AP exam?
Do you have integrity? From what university did you graduate? What was your major?
Do you value family? What was your grade point average in college?
How important are relationships? How difficult is it to get an A in your class?
Are you interested in me as a person? Can you help me get into the college I want to get into?
Guess which side students want you to establish first? Well, you might be surprised to find that some will need your competence established first, then the sincerity, while others need sincerity first. That is why we need to understand our students and get to know who they are and what they need. One thing is undeniable- in order for them to learn from you, they need to be able to trust you. In order to earn their trust you need to demonstrate both sincerity and competence. Teaching is the greatest sales job in the world.
The school building is under attack... literally. The school building is the place where we gather to share ideas, help each other grow, encourage one another's successes and help one another through setbacks. It's where we meet people, form long-lasting friendships, figure out what we like and dislike, develop a love for learning under the influence of a positive mentor and other members of the tribe. Why is it under attack? It is not a simple answer like some suggest. Schools are a symbol of milestones, connections, and accomplishments as well as a symbol of rejection, failure, alienation and heartache. Those who identify with the first set of adjectives can barely understand how anyone can see it any other way, yet those who identify with the latter struggle to see anything positive in the brick and mortar that is a school building. The past two years has challenged the value of the existence of these "relics" of the past implying that students can be served remotely via Zoom and online delivery of course curricula. What cannot be delivered online is the connection of a community. It is difficult to communicate, cooperate, and feel genuine compassion through a screen- even though it is just as present in either form. The advantage of being together is the secret to the success of our society in the future. It is during the formative years of school that we learn to get along- even with those with whom we do not agree. It is where we learn the value of in-person conversations and collaboration efforts that work better than the technological trade-off. Being present with those in your presence is the key to making the brick and mortar school building valuable. Sitting in isolation amongst twenty-five of your peers while playing a game, or streaming, or scrolling endless social media posts is not a good way to develop the need for significance or love and connection unless you are one of the online influencers receiving praise from those who are in isolation. The school building is the gathering place for our communities to practice compassion, unlike the faceless social media version of trolling and verbal abuse which leads to fewer and fewer meaningful conversations. The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask... and the people from whom you seek to get the answers.
We all need to feel safe, belong to a group, and feel like we matter to that group. Recently, our students' faith in feeling safe took a hit. We will work to earn that back, and we will work just as hard at making sure they feel like they are a part of a group and that they matter... because they do. Every one of them. Hold your loved ones a little closer today. Tell your kids that you love them, you are proud of them, and that you hear them. It may go a long way to say, "I'm sorry I don't have all the answers," because we don't.
Have you ever thought to yourself, "I thought of that [idea, or song, or blog, or other content or product] a long time ago! Why didn't I [post, record, build, write, etc...] it first?" The only difference between you and that successful guru that you might listen to on a podcast or a YouTube channel is they have been "doing" it for a while. You know all the same information, and can probably share it better, or tell better stories, but you haven't been doing it... so nobody knows who you are. Everyone knows THAT guy... he's been doing it for (fill in a number here) years. Get to the other side of the knowing/doing gap RIGHT NOW! Start doing it. Just start. What is the best way to become really good at something? Or to become an expert in an area? Start sharing what you know, while you learn more, and share more, and before you know it, you will become the guru. But you never will if you don't start TODAY. And be consistent. Do it again tomorrow, or the next day, or once a week- just keep moving, and doing, and creating, and learning, and improving... never give up.
In psychology, the false consensus effect, also known as consensus bias, is a pervasive cognitive bias that causes people to “see their own behavioral choices and judgments as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances”
When we meet somebody new, we assume they think and behave as we do. Some people do, of course, but not everybody. Our attitudes, thoughts, and actions are usually shaped by our family, friends, acquaintances, and life experience, and since everybody has different life experiences and people in their lives, behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes are different from ours. This bias goes a bit further, as you can imagine. Our brains are very powerful supercomputers. When we imagine somebody is dishonest or lacks integrity, our brain tries to affirm our original thought that the person is dishonest and lacks integrity. We continue to look for signals to confirm the bias that was initially thought to be true, whether the bias is true or not. Unfortunately, we hold onto those biases quite firmly, rather than questioning the basis of our belief. Remember, input leads to belief, which leads to attitudes, which leads to actions and then results. If we begin a situation with improper information, we have to be open-minded to listening to other points of view, and listening to possible inconsistencies to our original biases. Think of someone or something that you assumed was true. Now think of somebody you know who disagrees with your "truth." Be open minded, and listen. You may find that you are hanging onto a baseless bias. Or maybe not. At least challenge why you believe what you believe. Always.
 Ross, Lee; Greene, David; House, Pamela (May 1977). "The 'false consensus effect': An egocentric bias in social perception and attribution processes". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 13 (3): 279–301. doi:10.1016/0022-1031(77)90049-X.
Teachers hear this every year from their students. Is it a fair question to ask? Well, it depends on how the teacher is using their influence. Is the teacher saying that knowing the electron configuration for tungsten is important regardless of what your future holds? Or is the teacher saying that the specifics of the course may not be useful, but the methods that were implemented in arriving at "learning" the concepts will be used long into adulthood? That is a fair statement, unless the teacher is only interested in compliance and little else.
In one instance, the specific subject matter is the focus (learning how to complete the square in algebra, for example), and in the other, life skills are the focus. In the life skills model, the teacher uses the subject matter to teach inquiry (asking good questions), problem solving, collaboration (working together to a shared end result), grit* (sticking with a problem until it is completely and adequately solved), creativity, and communication- maybe one of the most important, but least practiced. Effective communication includes listening. Listening for understanding is losing popularity in this world of self promotion. If those skills are what is being taught, then the answer to the original question is, "For the rest of your life."
*Grit may be the most important of these skills. See more on grit here.
When a child learns to walk, even strangers cheer for them to be successful. When a kid learns to ride a bike, strangers will stop to watch in anticipation to cheer them on. When do we stop cheering for each other? Maybe the reason we never give up the idea of walking is that we feel that the whole world is rooting for us. We continue to get up and fall down repeatedly until at some point, we figure out how to stay up more than we fall. We want to capture the first time our child is successful at walking, but we have lost interest in the falls that created that success. We should try to capture her last fall as well. Take time today to recognize a couple of things about people: find somebody doing something well for the first time (or early in the process); find somebody failing for (maybe) the last time, and celebrate all the failures that have lead to their success. Both types of recognition are necessary to keep people moving toward being successful. Go cheer somebody on!! Make a difference.
Just go ahead. Do it. Launch and don't look back. Extend yourself. Take a risk. Make it happen. Whatever you are doing is worth it if it is intended to help somebody and make this world a better place. If you go ahead and do what you have been planning and it fails... you'll get another chance...and another. When you are adding value to people and are conveying empathy, your "failures" will be excused while you come up with another way to help. Just help. We need people like you who are willing to take a risk to make this world a better place. Go ahead...jump. We're excited for the results.
If you choose to be kind to somebody, how far does that travel? How many people will be positively impacted by a kind gesture? Conversely, how many people will be negatively impacted by an insult or a negative comment? Unfortunately, we are very quick to be negative, and slow to be complimentary. Take some time today to prepare a compliment or a nice comment for somebody, and then pass it on. Be intentionally kind to somebody... An intentional act of kindness with a random recipient(s). Try it, and see how much better YOUR day is as a result. Go ahead... I dare ya'!