Yesterday, Maria Roberto visited Toorak College to lead a day long session about Wellbeing and Positive Psychology. It was a great day – we were all immersed in the vast repertoire of knowledge Maria imparted, and from the feedback I was hearing, the majority of the staff who participated thought that it was time well spent. Spending a whole day focused on your Wellbeing seemed a bit of a luxury, but it was evident too that our Wellbeing as teachers reflects heavily on our ability to teach well. If you’re not in a good state, how can your teaching be at its prime?
There were many takeaways, but one segment of the day that really resounded with me was the discussion surrounding how we react to others. We participated in a role play and had to respond with either ‘active destructive’ or ‘active constructive’ statements to our partner who was effusively describing something that had inspired them from the day. When taking on the ‘active destructive’ role, your statements began with ‘yes, but…’ and when taking on the ‘active constructive’ role, your statements began with ‘yes, and…’.
This exercise really got me thinking. Working in the area of Educational Technology, I’ve found myself in many discussions where the ‘yeah buts…’ dominate. When people are confronted with change, it’s sometimes easy to nullify the new idea with a series of ‘yeah buts…’ that reinforce the status quo. As many of you would know, it’s quite deflating when you’ve discovered something that you think has the potential to invigorate curriculum or change our workflows and all you meet is resistance. I’ve had to retreat at times and build my strength again in order to keep ploughing on at what I know can make a difference for the learning environments of the students we teach. It’s really helped that this year I’m now working as Director of ICT and eLearning at my school. I’ve been given ‘wings’, so to speak, and it makes an enormous difference to be able to present ideas that can gain some traction because you have some degree of positional power.
Over the last few years I’ve realised that I counter the ‘yeah buts…’ by immersing myself in teacher networks. When the doubters have been in the majority, it’s been to the networks where I have retreated to find the ideas and energy to continue. I’ve read numerous books that have helped me to retain a positive mindset, and one that had a lasting effect was Brene Brown’s ‘Daring Greatly’. Her Leadership Manifesto is pinned on my wall at work, and I read it when I feel the need to gain strength to continue.
Here’s another picture that hangs on my wall at work, a quote from David Jakes, turned into a pretty effective picture by my good friend Bill Ferriter. It rings true with the ‘active destructive’ and ‘active constructive’ discussions we had yesterday.
Being conscious of our reactions matters, in all facets of our lives. Thinking positively, using optimistic language, smiling the Duchenne smile and using humour are all important if we are to remain healthy in both our working and home environments. My task – employ these daily. Maybe you should too.