Late last year, I conducted professional discussions with our teachers. We reflected on the year, shared successes and discussed how we can continue to improve our school. As part of these discussions I asked “How do you make your classroom a magnet?” That is how do you make your classroom a place that students feel safe, supported and challenged in. A space where they are willing to ask questions, take risks and collaborate with others.
It was during one of the conversations that a teacher referred to himself as a switchboard operator. He said that to be able to create a classroom that was a magnet for learners he needed to be able to tap or tune into each student’s agenda. He needed to know them each as an individual and know how to switch the learning on and make connections.
It was during one of the conversations that a teacher referred to himself as a switchboard operator
To put an educational spin on the notion of the “switchboard operator” – it is basically the need to differentiate. As educators we are always considering the need to differentiate in the curriculum to meet the needs of our learners. But how often do we plan how we will differentiate for the social and emotional needs of our learners?
Our students walk through the door with varying levels of confidence, resilience, and persistence and differing capabilities of getting along with staff and peers. It is a challenge to meet the diverse range of social and emotional needs our students bring.
But we know that for children to be successful, to live positive lives then we need to tap into these needs and provide the environment, support, lessons and the role model that will allow them:
To develop positive friendship skills, social values and empathy;
To understand feelings, develop emotional awareness and coping skills.
Each Friday I take a group of Year 4 students and we focus on developing our persistence, resilience and confidence. I thoroughly enjoy teaching the group as I have watched them develop a mindset that has more green thoughts than those that red. Green thoughts mean we find the positives in the variety of situations we face and focus on them.
As an adult we can take it for granted that we can just do that – find and focus on the positives. Two examples over the last few days have demonstrated to me that a positive mindset is something we continually have to work on.
“A positive mindset is something we continually have to work on.”
I was talking to one of our wonderful cleaners and during our conversation she mentioned how she couldn’t stop thinking about the Dream World tragedy and the unfortunate drowning of two children in a pool. I agreed they were tragic accidents but we can’t allow our red thoughts to dominate. I asked her what are some of the positives from the week, the green thoughts? After a little deliberation she explained her son just got a job, her children were healthy and happy and to top it off she was getting her hair done tomorrow. As I left for the night she exclaimed “Hey I really like the idea of green thoughts!”
We can have permission to have red thoughts but I think the issue is how long we let them dominate our thinking and ultimately our behaviour. Recently an issue got brought to my attention and I went into full red thought mode!
My initial reaction was one of frustration and disappointment with a good dose of anger thrown in. With the red thoughts dominating I was thinking irrationally – I’m going to send an email to address this right now (10pm at night) or pick up the phone and unload. Actions that would probably have made me feel good in the interim but would have left me regretting my decisions in the long run.
“With the red thoughts dominating I was thinking irrationally.”
On the advice of my life coach aka wife, I decided to sleep on it. With as good a sleep as you can have with a five month old baby, I reflected over a morning coffee on the issue and the red thoughts that were dominating my mindset. I had taken the easy route by allowing negative thoughts to outnumber green. When in fact, yes the issue was disappointing, but there had been many positives to come out of it. I then realised if I continue to focus on feeding the positives and the people who have a positive impact then ultimately we will all be better off.
Looking at our world through green coloured glasses is something we continually have to work at. Just like we work on our fitness, practice an instrument to get better, we must work on the skill of turning red thoughts into green ones.