Monday, February 21, 2011

Defeated from the Start

defeatThis can’t be done in our school from Generation YES Blog, Sylvia Martinez wrote,

“The thing that made me feel the worst, though, was a glimpse of a session evaluation. I know speakers aren’t supposed to look at them, but they were on the table when I was packing up and there it was in the comments section – “This could not be done at our school.”… But I think the best question would be – what vision would it take to convince you to even try?”

When I first saw this, it made me feel sad. It made me feel sad because I felt that the participant had given up before even starting. This person’s mind was made up before they even entered the session and did not even see the possibility of what might be. Hope had been lost and this person had a defeatist attitude. If this is how the teacher was feeling, I had to think this attitude was also influencing the students. Did this attitude come from the principal too or even the school superintendent? Where did this begin? How do we stop it?

The way to stop it is to begin with an open mind.

When I go into professional development sessions, I try to keep an open mind. If I start off with the idea that anything is possible, I can see the opportunities that could happen. With a little adjustment and tweaking, I can see how this new strategy or program could work in my classroom or make me more effective in my teaching. The world is open to possibilities if I accept the idea that anything is possible.

If I have trouble wrapping my head around how I can make this work, I ask questions. I ask others to help me brainstorm how I could use this in my class. I let their open minds work for me. Sometimes people from a different perspective can see the possibilities for my classroom even if they can’t see it for their own.

Rather than starting with the statement of “this won’t work,” I try to start off with “what do I need to do to make this work.” Having this mental acceptance can make something possible because my mind doesn’t shut down to suggestions.

I have tried to help many students and I’m always amazed with how defeated they start off. They raise their hands and say, “I can’t do this!” I try to get them to start off with the question, “How can I make this work?” Just that little shift in thinking helps them. By starting off with the defeated attitude, they have given up before they have even tried. Just by asking how to make it work, they are willing to try and then anything is possible. Their mind can see that different possibilities.

I have tried to help other teachers with strategies to use in their classroom. With every suggestion, some respond, “That won’t work!” Well, of course it won’t work because they aren’t willing to give it a try. Instead, they should be asking, “How can I make that work in my situation?” Let’s look at the obstacles and find a way of knocking those obstacles down. By giving up before we start is putting up walls that were never there. We don’t need to add obstacles to our challenges but instead find ways to overcome the ones already there!

So I hope when I am faced with new ideas I can face the challenge and say,

· How can I make this work for me?

· What obstacles do I face?

· What can I do to break down the things that stand in my way?

· What else do I need to do to make this successful in my situation?

What do you do when you learn about new programs, strategies, or ideas? Is your mind open or closed?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Dying Gaul 1' by: Mary Harrsch


Sioux Roslawski said...

Pat--You are so on the mark. Teachers and students--too often--begin with the mindset that they cannot do it. One year, I got so tired of students saying, "I can't," I had them write all the things they could NOT do on slips of paper (I wrote down things as well), I borrowed a shovel from our custodian, we went out in front of our school where some bushes were planted, and we held a "funeral" for "I can't." We buried the slips of paper in the dirt, and for the rest of the school year, students could not say "I can't."

It's amazing that sometimes my intellectually deficient students easily begin a project (like making a cube out of marshmallows and toothpicks) without even thinking "I can't" while their more intellectually capable classmates think they need guidance and directions and assistance...

musicartwords said...

I love what you have to say here, and I agree with you. However, if you have never worked in a district that blocks sites for reasons such as "personal productivity", "music appreciation", and "creativity", you cannot understand our frustration.

But, please keep encouraging us! Sometimes, even though we "can't", people like you help us find ways we "can". That's the wonderful part of communities like this; we can gather and find new ideas and strategies for using the wonderful resources that are out there.

Your post was very inspiring to me, and I plan to share it!
Thank you.

loonyhiker said...

@Sioux I love the idea of burying the words! I think a staff development at the beginning of the year with teachers doing this would be great!

@musicartwords I'm sorry you are blocked in this way but hopefully you will find a way to overcome this obstacle. I'm so glad you were inspired by this post and agree that is what is so important about these communities. We need to be there for each other! Hang in there!

musicartwords said...

It is ironic that this site is blocked @ my school! I didn't realize that earlier.

loonyhiker said...

@musicartwords Thanks for finding a way around that obstacle and reading my blog!! I appreciate the detour!

Perfect Dad said...

I would say that many people in general start off by being defeated. It is a simple thing to talk yourself out of anything, especially something new that you don't exactly know how to accomplish.

My trick: See if someone else has every done it. If so, then chances are it's possible. If not, then you have the opportunity to be the first!

Never ever start by coming up with reasons why something is impossible. Like you said, knock down the obstacles one by one.

Great post.

loonyhiker said...

@Perfect Dad Great suggestion! Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment.