Last year I had the best teaching year of my life, and my student outcomes were the highest I’ve achieved in my 15 year teaching career. Did I hit the student placement lottery? Was it the academic ability of my students? Their average socio-economic status? Pharmaceuticals? No to all of the above. My spectacular year was the result of one small commitment, one little pledge I made to myself before I even met my students.
I pledged that I would not utter one negative word to another individual about my class or any of my students. Instead I focused on the positive. When people asked me about my class, I sang their praises. When colleagues lamented about their classroom struggles, I did not chime in. Every day, instead of focusing on the problems, I shared with my students all the awesome things I was seeing them accomplish. I showed them that I was thankful for their efforts through shout-outs and congratulations. We celebrated our success.
Here’s the thing – soon I didn’t need to think about my pledge anymore. My students were so empowered by my complete belief in and support of them, I felt like I had nothing to complain about. The product of this one small change, this simple pledge, was the best classroom culture I’ve ever experienced.
In past years I have handled the internal stresses of being a teacher through collective commiseration. I would complain to others about the more challenging aspects of my profession just to blow off steam. I didn’t realize that the steam I was blowing off was permeating every fiber of my classroom and my school.
It’s no secret that our words have power. Andy Andrews said, “Whatever you focus upon, increases.” Imagine what could happen if everyone in education rejected the pervasive negative speech and stopped what Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase refer to as admiring the problem.
In his new book, Lead with Culture, author Jay Billy reminds us to “be intentional and build a culture of ‘YES,’” so this year I am pledging publicly that I will not say anything negative about my students, colleagues, school, or district. I will challenge the status quo by building on surpluses instead of focusing on deficits using only positive language. Every day I will publicly celebrate something awesome about my students, colleagues, school, or district.
WHY GO PUBLIC?
I need to make this pledge public because I can’t do this alone. If I were a smoker trying to quit, I would need my family, friends, and colleagues to help me by not smoking around me or sharing their cigarettes with me. By publicly making the Positivity Pledge, I am announcing that I am not available for negative conversations. I’m not willing to admire the problem anymore.
Just imagine what we can accomplish if we all pledged to allow only positive steam to permeate the fiber of our schools. What if parents made the pledge? Whole communities? Policy makers? Politicians? Please join me in taking The Positivity Pledge. Place a badge on your classroom door. Sign a banner in your faculty room. Share your commitment, results, shout-outs, and celebrations using #positivitypledge. Together, we just might harness the power to change the conversation about our public schools one classroom at a time.
“I pledge that I will say nothing negative about my students, colleagues, school, or district. I will challenge the status quo by building on surpluses rather than focusing on deficits using positive language. Every day I will publicly celebrate something awesome about my students, colleagues, school, or district.”