Working in a Culture of Positivity

Ten minutes ago, I was in the main conference room in the front office, talking with my principal.  In the last week, I received several forms of the “See Me” notes, something everyone dreads.

Except for me.  Not this time.

Because I wasn’t the only person invited.

Nor was I in any type of trouble.

Starting last fall, my principal collects “pings,” good moments, happy moments, positive experiences that promote more than just “mental wellness.”  It’s more than just a catch-phrase, a momentary feel-good.

It’s more like coming in and sitting down and chatting with an old friend.  The differences melt away, the definitions and boundaries evaporate.  For a few minutes or, in today’s case…thirty, a small group of adults sit down in a room, eat some popcorn, drink some water, and talk.

My principal is a master at getting people to open up.  She even got my husband to talk which is pretty hard given we were at  a social event which he hates with strangers which he really hates while having to be halfway formal…which he despises.  But my principal gently nudged at him, and eventually he poked his head out of his introverted shell, said a few things, and then quietly withdrew.  In my husband’s world, that’s being chatty.

This morning, after the class-change, a math teacher-friend and I went down to the office, took a seat, and we listened to people taking turns talking about their weekends.  One-by-one, each person narrated something positive that had happened this weekend.  I described how Pat and I “practiced retirement” (another blog post for another day…maybe tomorrow).

And as the minutes stretched and the exterior responsibilities fell away, I noticed how we slowly leaned in towards one another, opened the cold doors of our privacy, and allowed just a shard of light to gleam under the doors.  I talked about Pat and me sitting on the front porch, our feet resting on the railing, just enjoying the warmth of early spring sunshine.  Other teachers describing moving into new homes, being on trips with other teachers, or enjoying the heat and warmth of sun-warmed soil in the garden, of turning over the leaves to find the sprouting flowers searching for the sun.

From there, we were encouraged to share our “pings,” our moments of success, our moments of joy, our moments of goodness in the classroom or with our students or with each others.

Teachers talked about their contentment with the jobs, with the school, with their students.  Several quoted students confessing that the teacher was their “favorite” or how students wanted to take more classes with that one teacher.  An art teacher talked about a former student returning to her class to buy clay to be used on project, and her face illuminated with joy as she shaped her hands around the imaginary sculpture that the former student brought in to show.

My colleague, Emily, talked about the positivity of her students, how they encouraged and motivated her to do her best.  My son is among those students, and I know how much she has encouraged him as he experienced some of the hardest parts of his like thus far.  Daily, she gives him hope.  Daily, she enables him to smile.  Daily, she shows him the goodness that I have always seen and always told him were there.

Emily is my door-duty partner.  She is my friend.  She is my colleague and my peer.  She is my sister in Christ.  She is my prayer partner.  She is my greatest support.  She is my comforter.

And so, when I was asked to give my “ping,” I started with talking about how much I loved working with Emily during our door duty time.  But then I realized that my “ping” was Emily.  Because of all she has done for the Boy, because of all she has done for our department.

Because of all she has done for me.

I know that I am rather selfish when I write something like this.  It’s all about me.  In some respects, I feel the urge to duck my head in shame, to hide my eyes in my elbows and pretend that I really didn’t just write that.

But I did.  And I’m glad that I did.  Because Emily will never win an award for all she has done for me because, in the grand scheme of things, I’m not exactly high in the celebrity-political-person-strata.  I’m very much tied to the land and low on the whole totem pole place.  And I’m happy there.

So while my colleagues wrote about their amazing students or their amazing experiences, I drew an arrow down from Emily’s name and wrote that she is (not was) my “ping.”  I might have mis-spelled her last name.  Sorry about that….

But the other thing that I really want to recognize in today’s post is this.

My principal is an incredibly brave woman.  She doesn’t hide in her office and sign papers all day and punish students and “run a tight ship.”  She opens her door, literally, and invites us in to see her and then gets us to brag about ourselves.  And I don’t feel self-conscious about this moment in the spotlight because the spotlight is so huge that everyone gets to stand together in the light and look up and see the beauty of this moment.

Moreover, my principal doesn’t stand in the spotlight with us.  She’s the one directing the light at us, pouring all the love she has onto us so that we see what she sees….greatness.

The humble woman in me is screaming to change that word….to lessen it to “good.” But, to do so would be to chip away at how great Emily is.  Or how great my math-teacher-friend, Shannon is.  Because she really is great.  Or Wes who does incredible things with technology and actually makes math fun.  Or Rhonda and Gail who are my English colleagues in the specialty center in which we work.  They were the people who enabled me to start working in this center.  They have been my guides, a dual set of compasses always encouraging me to find my own true-north and not follow the stepping stones that were set in place by my predecessors.

And my principal is great.  Because I am sitting in my classroom writing and feeling joyful and content on a late February day.  Usually, at this time, I am exhausted and feeling discouraged and down-spirited.  Instead, because I work in a culture of positivity, my back is straight, my head is held high, my shoulders are back, and my spirits are lifted.  For today, “it is well with my soul.”  And somehow, despite being a bit behind on my grading and other bits and pieces of paperwork, I know that I will continue to do well.

Because that is the effect of working in an environment in which we are encouraged to do well.  And to see ourselves as beneficial to one another and to our students.  The demarcation lines that can create hostility and “whose side are you on?” fall away.  And we are truly together and united towards the common good.  And the common good isn’t just our students.  It’s everyone.  And everything.


4 thoughts on “Working in a Culture of Positivity

  1. I love this! Where was this when I was there? It’s always good to have this kind of positivity in the work place. It makes you enjoy your job and love what you do every day. As always, it was a pleasure reading this entry.

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