Saturday, May 19, 2012

The important of positivity

It's been a busy term and everyone is a little frayed.  It's time like this that a school like ours can start to wear on you a little.  You see only the negative and miss all of the good things that are being done.  You start to become that teacher that has been at the school a little too long and starts to believe the reputation of a school rather than see the potential of students.

If this happens, I hope you are able to take a step back and look at what you are doing.  I hope you have great people around you that can fill your sails with enthusiasm and drive you past the negativity - and similarly you can be that person for others in the organisation.  I hope you can look over your shoulder and see all the kids that have passed through the system successfully and realise that you are a part of something that makes a difference in your community.

I only noticed it this week because I was doing long hours and getting tired.  I was at a social function and a few jokes were bandied about our school (which is fairly normal - we have a reputation that we no longer deserve) and probably for the first time I wasn't one of the ones leaping to our defence.  Yet, I was surrounded at the time by two math teachers that graduated from our school (and were now working in the local area), my current practicum student is a graduate from our school, three of our past practicum students keep close contact with the school because they are keen to work with us (not only did practicum not scare them off - they can see the support and challenge of a school like ours), past students at university drop in all the time and visit.  Nearly every student that I have taught stage 3 courses to is now at university and is successfully traversing their degree.

We are lucky at the moment to have an administration that is challenging us to do more, and is helping those that want to rise to the challenge. They are supportive of our hair brained schemes that may help our hair brained students, ideas born from the extensive experience of the teaching team and through discussions with students.  There are even levels of real performance management entering the system - which is exciting as this is the heart of real change in the school.

We are doing things that very low SES schools don't do.. overseas trips, winning state and national competitions in multiple areas (science, history, home economics, dance from my knowledge in the last 5 years). We develop leadership.. With each PD I find that our school department has developed teachers in TiC and HoD positions all over WA that remember the school fondly.

I hear comments about how students miss our school once they have left and it's not just our stage 3 kids.  With the development of an active PE department, a T&E dept (focussed on vocations not just skills), dedicated dance and drama teachers and a MESS group that is getting their head around national curriculum delivery, we should be positive about the direction of the school.

It was a little surprise to discover I had become a teacher that had real pride in our school, rather relying on my more natural cynicism about everything!

Sure, we'll take hits in year 11 exams, as students start to realise a work ethic is needed to succeed but past experience says that the majority will get there (at least the ones that can surmount the problems the area brings).  The kids make the transition (giving us more grey hairs whilst making this transition) and it is ok.  Perspective needs to be maintained.

I think we need to be mindful of staff that focus on the negative aspects of schooling and miss the great things that are happening.  These members are always there, and it is a group I don't want to be a part of.

For someone like me that is developing their leadership skills, I think positivity is a real area I can work on.  As an art of leadership, inspiration of a team requires real belief in what you are doing.  If you feel that your belief is waning, take a good look around and see what you have done to make a difference, listen to colleagues that are in the zone, if that does not work, go make that difference instead.