I had my hairs did the other night, properly PPE’d and precautioned as one can be in the hairdresser’s chair. I adore my hairdresser. I love that she remembers what I said I wanted five weeks ago. I love that I can let her have her way with color and cuts without a lot of input. Do we want highlights? Sure. What do we want to do with color? I dunno, whatever you decide is great. She did an amazing job, and my hair looked fabulous when I picked up my pizza next door and headed home for the last Zoom meeting of the night.
Did you know that we are hardwired to see the negative before we acknowledge the positive? I think that gifted kids (and adults) tend toward this more than most–perfectionism is a thing, people…and it’s so easy to see what’s imperfect…
I focused on my hair that night in her chair–it did look amazing and for a minute or two, I felt pretty.
But I heard my inner critic note that I looked so tired even behind my mask, and my face had gained weight (the mask wasn’t helping), and the cape made me look fat, and oh dear God, that wasn’t the cape making look fat–I AM fat. When did my knees get so big? I don’t remember this sweater being that tight. Where is my waist? I had one once. And the list went on in my head as I walked into the little pizza place next door to get my small veggie pizza (without olives) and cheesy bread (because cheese)…and continued most of the night. The negativity going on in my head almost had me in tears by the time I headed to bed.
This morning, I was in a meeting and we shared our bright spots. Our staff has been reading and working through Elena Aguilera’s book Onward for a couple of years to help build emotional resiliency in our staff to better be able to support each other and the kids we serve. I couldn’t get past the idea that negativity bias is really a thing. And then I started listening differently to teachers.
Initially, I’d ask at the beginning of a coaching session, “Tell me, how it’s going?” to get the ball rolling and to get an idea of how they were doing and then could guide the conversation from there. I thought this was a great intro, not realizing the can of worms I was opening up by asking such an open ended question.
The session often began with the name of whatever child was driving a teacher nuts that day.
“Oh my gosh I’ve had it! Joey isn’t doing any work–nothing gets turned in! Parents don’t respond to emails, and I’m bending over backwards to try to get them to work and nothing is happening! What’s our policy on suspension for lack of work production?”
Sometimes, the answer to my question was simply “Fine.” You and I both know what “Fine” with no additional elaboration really means.
Asking probing questions opened more worm cans full of issues, problems, and negativity. Rhetorical questions about procedures and asks that seem like one. more. thing.
It was a rare day when the initial response was something positive. I felt drained afterwards, sometimes cried if there was time, and the sense of defeat was heavy to carry around.
Because of my study of Aguilera’s work, I changed my question the last couple of years to “What’s going well?” to force teachers to think about the glows before we get into the grows. Wait time is important here, as often teachers need time to set aside the problem they brought with them to find something good. Sometimes it was personal, sometimes it had to do with a student or colleague. But it was always genuine, and from there, the conversation could become more reflective and problem-solving in nature vs. venting
My bright spots this week weren’t big ones. I found out that my fellowship is offering a stipend. It’s always nice to get unexpected money. My favorite jeans fit. I found a book on Audible that I need to read but can’t settle in and touch pages…it’s one I just need to listen to a couple times.
Teachers I’ve connected with this week saw their own good things…kids are happy, despite COVID, and looking forward to Winter Break. Some are growing as writers and beginning to enjoy it, others are enjoying getting to share their work with peers, and some are looking forward to units coming after the break.
Despite COVID, and all the BS that has come with it, there ARE bright spots. Help your colleagues and staff and kids find theirs before they do anything else this week…like Santa, bright spots do exist.