“Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.” – Douglas Adams
You’ve heard it said that perception is reality. What I perceive to be true is true for me. I then act out of that truth. But what if I’m wrong? Right now many of us in the College for Professional Studies are going through more change than we thought was even possible. Well beyond initiative fatigue (posted here March 2012), many are just plain weary and even broken hearted.
Recently a question was posed to me that became the kernel of an idea for this month’s post while continuing to focus on finding rest and renewal this summer.
“How can we deal with the low morale in our school?”
It begins with me. How I think is even more crucial to my morale than what others think of me. What I think is actually the only thing I can control.
How people think is the subject of much research. Why? Because people act on what they think, and if they can change how they think, they can change how they act. Educators are always encouraging students to become active learners – those who take responsibility for their own learning and make positive choices. Since many of them don’t think about their learning, educators look for ways to change their minds.
Think about your own interactions with your college over the past year or so. How many workshops, seminars, or presentations did you attend that focused on thinking skills or tools, habits of mind, or critical thinking? It’s true that before you can change your ways, you must first change your mind. We have developed bad habits of mind. We can change those habits of thinking and be transformed! The first step is to believe that what you hear is true. At this point belief is the catalyst for real, life-altering change. Without it, an exercise in developing better thinking habits is futile.
Popular inspirational, educational speaker and author Robert J. Marzano defines habits of mind as mental habits individuals can develop to render their thinking and learning more self-regulated. These mental habits include:
- Being aware of your own thinking
- Being aware of necessary resources
- Being sensitive to feedback
- Evaluating the effectiveness of your actions
We make assumptions about why others behave the way they do and draw conclusions based on those assumptions. We feed misconceptions with our own fears and build them into lies. Our interactions with our colleagues and students can at times contribute to a budding defensive mind-set. Bitterness takes root, and its deadly tendrils wrap around your heart.
These bad habits of thought then determine how we approach every new relationship with colleagues or students. The following bad habits of thought may be stalling your sense of peace and purpose:
- No one appreciates what I do. When this thought takes up residence, it begins to dictate how you respond to students, how you react to colleagues, and how you respect your leaders. You begin to back away and shut down. No rest is found in the company of this thought – only inner turmoil.
- I’m alone in all this. Thoughts of isolation can quickly turn into actions of self-preservation. You think you’re alone, so you act as if you are. Community breaks down when the walls of isolation go up. Relationships wither and die. You can’t reach the hearts and minds of others from behind a brick wall. Don’t allow this thought to determine your interactions. You are a part of one body. Don’t cut yourself off!
- My colleagues just don’t get it. Colleagues can understand what your life is like if you share it with them. This doesn’t mean whine and complain to them, but you can educate colleagues about the reality of how things work in your school. Engage in enough of a relationship so they can see your struggles, and maybe, if you let them, they can help.
This thinking only separates you from those you came to serve. Love them in spite of their apathy and receive reconciliation. Reconciliation brings peace.
If you’re not careful, you can think yourself right out of a job. Perception is everything. You are what you think. In church we sing a song that always reminds me of the power I have – “let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me” – Miller and Jackson’s song reminds me that healing begins with me – and you.
Caruana, V. (2005). Recess for teachers: taking time out for your body, mind, and soul. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Marzano, R. (1992) A different kind of classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Miller, S., & Jackson, J. “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” 1955.
Dr. Vicki Caruana, Ph.D is an assistant professor of education at Regis University in Special Education, a former classroom teacher, and parent turned writer who seeks to educate and encourage kids and those who live and work with them to strive for excellence. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Specific Learning Disabilities, a Master’s degree in Gifted Education, a certificate in Educational Leadership, and will obtain her Ph.D. in Special Education in 2011. Her best-selling book “Apples & Chalkdust” has sold more than 600,000 copies! She has written more than 80 articles and 20 books and is a frequent guest on national radio and television programs. Vicki speaks at educational, parenting, homeschool and writers’ conferences. Vicki is also an educational spokesperson whose most recent client is Nintendo®. Her radio media tour reached more than 3,000,000 listeners nationwide.