An Open-Minded Attitude

Attitude is something I have been thinking about a lot recently. The power that it holds. The influence that it can wield. The impacts it has. This last year has been tough on everyone. It has demanded attention, in many respects, most of all towards our attitude; to examining our beliefs and values and our response to circumstances at any given moment. So finally, in a moment of quiet, I got to thinking more about attitude and the power it has to determine outcome.

The familiar range of reactions bubble to the surface when a group of students, young or old, are faced with a new task. There are those who approach the given task with confidence and a certain degree of nonchalance, ´This will be easy´ or ´No problem, I know how to solve this.’ Whilst there are those who tentatively step forward and quietly express they will ‘give it a try‘, or say, ´I think I can work it out‘, and others who simply declare ‘I´m no good at this.’, or are absolutely self-deprecating and poke fun at their own capabilities. All within a somewhat ‘typical’ range of reactions.

But which of these reactions actively impinge upon learning and become an unseen barrier to the learner making progress? What have we learned about the importance of attitude during the recent COVID 19 Pandemic? How has our attitude helped or hindered us transform as teachers? How can we develop resilience to navigate emotions and be an agent of our own attitude? These and many more questions are bubbling to the surface for me.

I shared the below image and statement during our back to school meeting in August to provoke thinking around how critical our mindset is in helping us navigate, be successful and thrive and how we need to support each other as a community during this marathon crisis period.

Three things I think I have learned about fostering an open-minded attitude during this past year are:

1. Acceptance enables us to be open-minded and embrace the circumstances we face.

This year has taught us all more than anything that many things are out of our control – we just have to accept and look forward, we cannot dwell. Accepting the bumps, the twists and turns and the nosedives are the only way to be able to keep an open mind and thrive.

2. ‘Self talk’ matters more than we realise.

‘Self talk’ helps and hinders us in equal measure. We are often our own harshest critic. However, a kind word to a colleague, to a student, to a friend can also help us to remember to be kinder to ourselves. Spreading gratitude and value can help us manage our own ‘self talk.’

3. Finding time to be mindful, is essential to being able to thrive.

We all have experiences that centre us, that help us feel refreshed, remind us of what is important and this can be anything from sport to cooking to reading. For me, being able to participate in a Mindfulness course with colleagues was a wonderful experience that not only fostered community during this difficult period but also helped me find practices that I can embed in my daily life to become more mindful.

All Change

Change is something which affects us all on both a small and large scale, sometimes we choose to change a routine or habit or sometimes we are faced with change in a much more dramatic or life-changing way. I recently was discussing ‘change’ with friends and colleagues and it got me wondering,  is it the actual change  itself that presents the challenge or is it more the context or way in which we view the change that impacts us? Furthermore, what makes children so much more adaptable to change?

Working in an International School environment, change, on a larger scale is, in many ways part of daily life. Colleagues, students and families come and go, and change in opinions can be widespread (and sometimes surprising) with such a mixture of cultures and backgrounds.

When I really started to think about ‘change’, one word came to mind, and that was acceptance.

The beginning of the school year always brings about a great deal of change. Whether it be change of teachers, students, books and materials, or even greater change such as moving countries or schools. I have noticed that quite often change is deemed as ‘bad’, ‘unsettling’, ‘challenging’ or ‘disruptive’. When you share the term ‘change’, even on a basic level ‘change your shoes’, ‘change your attitude’, ‘change your mind’ for all of these tasks effort is involved and acceptance that there is actually a need for change.

Yet when I started to think about well known sayings or quotations that related to change they seemed to have more positive connotations.

‘A change is as good as a rest’ and  ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Mahatma Gandhi

So what is it really that so often heralds this gloomy dark cloud over the idea of ‘change’?images

It seems to me that any sort of  ‘change’ requires three ingredients, effort, acceptance and self-awareness.

First of all to initiate any change large or small, effort is required to make the change happen. Secondly there needs to be an acceptance of the change or need for change and finally we need to demonstrate some self awareness of how we respond and react to the change.

When I consider how children seem much more adaptable to change it seems that their willingness to accept change, itself changes their outlook to being one of simply just ‘being’, that ‘change is going to happen so what must I do to cope with the change?’. Much less time is spent by children over how to prevent change and much more time is spent accepting and reflecting on what they must do to cope with the change.

So, whether I consider making changes, large or small, or I am faced with changes I am going to try to do so with acceptance, effort and self-awareness! Who knows, maybe this small ‘change’ in attitude might just ‘change’ my outlook for the better.

No Expectations

Expectations.

Think for a moment about what you expect from yourself, your students, your family, your friends & your colleagues. As an educator I have a lot of expectations, of myself, my colleagues and my students. I would convey the idea that I had ‘high expectations’ – I think wanting to empower myself and others to ‘rise to the challenge.’ Well, looking back now I was mistaken…

During this school holiday period, I enrolled in a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training program at YogaWorks in New York, some might say not quite a holiday! I most definitely had expectations.

Expectations of myself, of fellow classmates, of the teachers, the course and of what my body could do. What I hadn’t expected was to come away with letting go of expectations. I was challenged to ask: Does having expectations actually empower us?

In fact, I have left expectations behind, all of them. For all these years, I have been saying it’s good to have high expectations of yourself and of others, when really, what I actually meant all this time was – BELIEF. I am not advocating letting go of striving for the best outcome or challenging yourself or others to reach their full potential what I am saying is remove the negativity that expectation drags around with it. For me, it took placing myself in the midst of a whirlwind of self-expectation and to be challenged in a completely new learning environment. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing, inspirational teacher and fellow students to enable me to recognize the power of belief.

What a revelation!

Belief in yourself, belief in your students, belief in your family, your friends and your colleagues.

Ultimately, I have learnt how powerful a single word can be.

What a difference to say to a student, ‘I believe in you’ rather than ‘I have high expectations of you’. How much more positive, empowering and supportive. I learnt a huge amount during my Yoga teacher training and I am just realising how much of it will connect back to my work as an educator with young learners.

I will be returning to the school year with a focus on choosing my words carefully; freeing myself, my colleagues and students from expectations and; replacing these with belief. So, believe in your students, colleagues, friends, family and most importantly yourself and see the rewards you reap.