Dr Brad Mc Gregor or Dr Brad Kavie as he is known to me, has left some very interesting comments on my blog mostly critiquing my defence of ‘white working class boys’ and my post about GCSEs for ‘factory fodder’. I ignored and deleted some of his more offensive comments but I left his questioning whether of not we should educate the masses for free. However much he dislikes my views, he continues to read my blog. His latest comment on my Reflective Journal hit home. He said I was ‘rubbish at my job and no wonder I was fired’.
These comments really hurt, not that I know Dr. Brad and not that he knows me. The last statement is most definitely false and I hope that 10a1’s 100% A*~C proves that I am not a rubbish teacher. His words hurt. But why?
So I pondered upon them, mulled over and justified myself to myself. It got me thinking about how many times I had said something in a classroom that I considered a ‘throw away’ remark that stayed with a pupil beyond that lesson, that day, that term. Even something as small and untrue as the comments above left me feeling quite miserable. Dr.Brad had evoked what is called the ‘negative emotional attractor’ or the NEA. It was not because his words are true or even a remote resemblance to the truth. It is because the words forced me to think about negative teaching situations I had found myself in. He had dragged me into negativity and I let him.
In June last year, I completed a course called Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence offered by Case Western University a freebie from Coursera. It was about how leaders use words and actions to produce negative and positive reactions and outcomes from employees. The course determined the difference between positive and negative leadership styles and which ones had the most impact upon a company’s results. Obviously, a leader who is emotionally intelligent and resonant with their staff will be more effective than one who promotes negativity (even unintentionally) and fosters low morale. It provided insight into mentoring and mindfulness.
As a behaviour management tool, positive feedback results in happier pupils. Everyone likes to be told their work is excellent, they have made you smile, even adults want to be told they are good at their jobs. A leader who inspires you through actions and positivity can reap the benefits from shared goals. As the old adage goes “people leave managers, not companies”. This is so true, when I think of the reasons I left my previous job; it wasn’t because of my trusted colleagues or the pupils.
The same is true for the classroom. If you instil a sense if achievement, stick to positive outcomes and continually tell your class they are amazing, they will want to work hard. I liked to have fun with 10a1, they brightened up my Monday mornings. They bought into every ‘silly’ idea that I came up with, singing, dancing, laughing, standing on chairs cheering and when it was time to buckle down they did. There wasn’t a pupil in that class that could ruin the atmosphere- I had total control over that as do all teachers. We make choices which can shift pupils from the NEA to the PEA- positive emotional attractors with our words, actions and reactions.
So I am mindful of my words and my actions. I remember getting some feedback from one of my very first GCSE classes (2005) and Joe…. Joe was a difficult character but he had a truth about him that was scarily accurate. After a difficult lesson, I asked the pupils to tell me how I could improve my lessons; what it was that I could do to improve their lessons. Joe wrote simply: don’t be so moody.
That hit home. And he was right, what was I doing bringing into the class my electric bill worries, my annoyance with the lack of tea bags in the staff room and all the other worries that come with teaching. I decided to be more mindful of my actions and be positive. In other jobs, you can sit quietly at your desk or pop out for walk or a coffee, maybe even ask for some impromptu leave but not in teaching. There’s barely time to go the loo let alone take time out for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, it is really tough to be happy every day, every lesson. The timetable, particular classes and the pressures from SLT are difficult to cope with and let me tell you I am still perfecting this positive outlook.
But meditation and reflection are really useful tools in teaching. I have a little notebook filled with scenarios that I can look back on. It is great for aspiring leaders too, you can reflect on best practice and write down your own ideas of how to handle those tricky situations. Ask your students to evaluate you and your style of teaching. Each year group and class will tell you something different that you can learn from. Even the bits that stick in your gut, the ones that make you think… They are the best ones to learn from.
Success comes in many forms and one of my favourite sayings is ‘that it isn’t a problem until we can’t find the solution’. Resilience is key to both teacher and student because it does get tough. It is probably the one thing that helped 10a1 to succeed as they did. I did cry once in their class when I told them I was leaving that year but that was a positive too.
I am not perfect, I have made mistakes and the great thing about making mistakes is that we learn from them and move on. Thanks Dr. Brad.