While my background is K-8 schooling, I recently attended a conference aimed toward college-age faculty, students, and environments. Offering copies of The Empowered Teacher: Proven Tips for Classroom Success, attendees asked questions about the information included in the book, and questioned the applicability of the subject matter. The overwhelming response proved that, while one might presume that the issues facing these different demographics would be unalike, responses from participants proved that theory to be incorrect. We all need to add a level of mindfulness, appreciation, and gratitude to our lives.
Strategies that make a Difference
- Students and educators of all ages need to know that they are noticed, and that they matter. When hearing about Best Day Ever Club bracelets, multiple educators commented on how important it is that people know they are being seen. Especially during this age of overwhelming technology, people appreciate having tangible proof that they matter and that someone cares. This held true whether educators were discussing either their students or staff; people, regardless of age, need to know they count.
- Seeing motivational quotes matched with pictures allowed participants to overcome the negative bias of the brain. People tend to spiral through negative thinking patterns: discounting positives; catastrophizing; imagining what others are saying or thinking about them, rumination, negative self-talk or exaggeration. Seeing inspirational quotes that were chosen by either students or educators reminded participants of the possibilities, and actually jogged memories that they were not alone in needing to keep positive thoughts in mind. Attaching pictures to quotes served as an additional method for drawing an eye to particular quotes; they were simply one more way to make connections to others.
- Surprising staff with positive messages in communal areas serves as a shot in the arm for employees who are feeling ‘down and out’. Notes with a rock attached (You rock!), a Lifesaver mint (You’re a lifesaver!), or a piece of candy (Nothing’s sweeter than having you on staff!) let faculty know you appreciate their presence and realize how hard they are working every day. Borrowing examples found in any number of motivational books (consider Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh) or asking your employees to list the elements of the “workplace of their dreams” will provide a starting point for getting staff on-board. Even suggesting staff enroll in the free, self-paced on-line class, The Science of Happiness, could serve as motivation for changing the culture of your school.
There is nothing tricky or even unique about these ideas; what makes these or other similar ideas so special is when they are implemented. So often we all become busy. So busy, in fact, that we almost stop noticing the special gifts that are possessed by those around us. Now is not the time to take others for granted. In fact, it is never a good time to take others for granted. We must remind ourselves that each person has talents and abilities and, if we take the time, we will all benefit by encouraging one another to shine.