Dancer: Maggie Carey Photo by: Geek With a Lens

Dancer: Maggie Carey
Photo by: Geek With a Lens

I don’t know about everyone else, but lately it seems like I have been surrounded by negativity.  It’s coming from everywhere: parents, colleagues, students, and the world in general. One day a younger colleague and I were discussing this latest disturbing trend that seemed to be making its way into our classrooms at an alarming rate.  When I asked her where she felt it was coming from, her answer was social media.  She laughed and told me,

‘I guess before Facebook and Snapchat and Twitter, we knew we had opinions, but we were certain no one cared about what they were.  Now, everyone has all these outlets and it makes them feel overly self-important, entitled and that everyone wants to know what they are thinking and feeling when really the opposite is true.  Negativity is like a cancer; it’s contagious and it grows and it steals their joy as well as those around them. I was very negative when I was a teenager and one day I woke up and realized, I was miserable and I was the one making myself that way.  I made a decision to change and I wish my students could learn from my experience.’

Pretty astute observation from such an inspiring young colleague.

Her answer really gave me a wakeup call that was long overdue.  It’s funny, but I guess I have gotten too used to this glass half empty mentality to the point where I have become anesthetized to it.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t let grumpy students have their way, quite the opposite, but I realized I had given up on trying to change their attitudes and just told myself this was now the new norm.  In this way, I’m failing my students. It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t be this way.  Something has to change and it starts with me. As a teacher, it’s my job to help them to break this cycle and focus on the positives and it starts now.  I’m turning over a new leaf and here are some of my thoughts of what I’m going to do to accomplish it.

Be a good example.

I LOVE what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else, but I don’t always express my enthusiasm to my students verbally. I don’t always share how excited I am to be there every day with them.  I want to make myself someone my students can emulate and be inspired by, but somedays, let’s face it, I don’t feel that positive myself.  Some days I’m tired.  Some days I’m upset.  I have always tried to leave this at the door of the classroom, but one can always do and be better and that’s my new goal.

Expect their best performance.

I usually do this, but lately, when I have felt that a student was being negative or lazy, I have just been ignoring them.  This stops and it stops now.  I am disrespecting them by acting like they are unable to accomplish anything.  I need to expect and show them that I expect that they can do great things and that they are the ones standing in their own way.  I need to quietly and personally address this situation.  I need to encourage these few students to leave those feelings at the door and that when they come in my classroom, they are expected to work at their very best regardless of how their day has gone so far.  This is their chance to turn their day around and accomplish something.

Ban negative talk in the classroom. 

No complaining. No whining. No, ‘I can’t.’ No, ‘It’s too hard.’ No, ‘I don’t like this step.’ My classroom is going to a positive space where dancers can try their very best and are free to make mistakes and are allowed to fail as long as they learn from it.

Voice my appreciation of my student’s accomplishments.

I thought I always did this with my actions, but I have learned that the words are important too.  I need to be a cheerleader for my students and really acknowledge their achievements. I believe in all of them, in their talent and their capabilities, but I don’t always take the time to say it.  After some self-reflecting, I have realized that I sometimes ignore some of my best dancers thinking they don’t need my praise as much since they are the best dancers.  I think to myself, ‘Wow, that kid had a great class today,’ but I don’t always verbalize my thoughts. All students are insecure and a little verbal reassurance can go a long way.

Start the week with an inspirational quote or mantra. 

I love reading.  I love learning.  There are so many funny and inspirational quotes out there.  I am going to start each week with an inspirational quote and I’m going to share it with my students.

Set goals. 

I have always been big on this, but over the years I have lost some of this focus and I need to embrace it again.  I think having small goals keeps people from getting overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed can lead to frustration and, frustration to negativity.  I have always encouraged my students to set their own goals and I set goals for them as well and let them know exactly what those are, but I need more follow-up and more accountability so my students can be successful and excited, achieving what they set out to accomplish.

What do I want from my students as we try and move in this more positive, optimistic direction?  I want you to embrace the small successes, let the failures go and be determined to do better next time.  Don’t let yourself get sucked into the negativity around you.  Stand tall.  Be the beacon of light in the darkness.     Let’s all of us, teachers and students, make a conscious choice to bring joy into our lives and the lives of those around us and live in this glorious moment when we get to dance.