Today I attended the first Oklahoma Regional Summit meetings in Tulsa. It was a good shot of enthusiasm to bolster up a weary batch of achievement gap warriors. The positive energy there was great and best of all, I had the chance to visit with some of my Institute pals.
The focus on the meeting was “Hope” and the various aspects of it. It gave us a lot to think about. Being reflective is certainly a part the culture of Teach For America.
I’ve been working a lot to pour positive energy into my work to overcome the influences of negativity. One of the things I came up with isn’t particularly original, but it seems to help. It’s a “Caught in the Act” form. I realized one day that we write up kids all the time for doing things wrong. We have a form for that. Thus, I made a form for the stuff they do right. I put check boxes on the form next to things like “Worked silently with great focus” or “Loaned pencil/paper to a classmate.” When I notice a student doing something good, I make a check on the form and I give it to them. The positive energy this creates is noticeable.
There is so much negativity. The culture of our school seems to operate from the expectation of scarcity. For example, the printers and copiers in the school don’t work most of the time. We have to bring our own paper and everyone hoards supplies and printer paper. When we arrive at a printer or copier, it is usually empty or has just a few sheets of paper in it.
The thing is that, if we were to fill the trays and replace only the paper we used to fill it back up again, we’d never run out. The same amount of paper would be used, but we’d never see the paper as an issue of scarcity. My small contribution to this is that, when I use the copier, I leave more paper in the tray than was in it to begin with. I’ll trust in karma or the universe or whatever you want to call it to provide it if and when I run short. It’s a way of paying it forward.
How many more little things could we do that way, to change our mindset from austerity and lack to one of surplus and abundance? The perceptual effect is more beneficial than the physical one.
Each day, I’m going to try to focus on what’s right and good rather than complain on what’s wrong. I have done pretty well with this over the past couple of years. School is just a new target for that positive energy. I think it has great potential to change the culture of the school–and if not the school, it will at least change the culture in my brain in a positive way.