Changing Mindsets of Negative Adults and Being More Appreciative of Each Other: Four Things to Keep in Mind

Here’s the thing about changing adult mindsets: you can’t. What you can do is change the way you react and interact with those staff members.

The best advice I ever received as a new teacher was to surround myself with colleagues that I wanted to be like. The people with whom you surround yourself will either bring you up, support your growth, nurture your development or, if they’re a negative group, do exactly the opposite. My best years of teaching were when I was surrounded by positive, hard working teachers who loved their job.

We don’t always have the luxury of choosing which coworkers we work closely with. We are thrown into professional learning teams in which arbitrary norms are created to ensure we are working together effectively and aligning our teaching practices in order to provide a guaranteed curriculum for our students. Some dream teams work together seamlessly, others maintain social and professional norms that get the job done. But what if teams don’t work? What about that member of the staff who always seems to rub people the wrong way? Here are four things to remember when you encounter negative mindsets to allow you to be more appreciative of each other.

1. Don’t Take it Personally – Everyone Carries “Stuff”

We must remember that in most interactions the way a negative person reacts or engages has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. Every person has a story. Every person has “stuff” that they are dealing with. Don’t take these interactions personally. Try reflecting on your day in 3rd person. Instead of saying things like “That lesson didn’t go the way I wanted…”  or “Next time I should…” Try reflecting on your day by saying, “The next time the teacher could…”

This allows you to not take negative setbacks personally. Think about your reactions with colleagues this way as well, “I wonder what they are dealing with in their life to make them react this way?”

2. Be the Cream, Rise Above

My Dad always said this to me as a kid, “Sarah, be the cream, rise above.” As a youth this phrase would infuriate me. However, he was right. Over the years this advice has served me well. Negative thoughts can be contagious. If you engage with a negative colleague, the result is almost always negative. Float to the top and be your higher self

3. Stay Positive, but Don’t Diminish Others
Just as negativity can be contagious, so can positivity. If you react to another person or colleague in a positive way, they will in turn react positively to you. In addition they will remember the positive interaction and interact with others similarly. This works in the classroom with students and it works with adults as well. Be mindful of how your positivity could diminish the struggle of others. Remember, everyone has struggles, we want to make sure that they feel validated and heard and that your positive slant is not putting down their struggle.

4. We Rise By Lifting Others
Successful school teams rise by lifting others. When a culture is strong, successful teachers elevate their colleagues. They share success, support others, and see the collective versus the individual. A team is only as strong as its weakest member. If you lift a negative colleague, or support a struggling team member, then you will advance the entire school. If you think of the metaphor of a human pyramid where people stand on the backs of others, who is on the bottom? The strongest people support the others. If you build your team this way, then collectively you will be able to reach higher.

Negative mindsets are difficult, but be mindful that everyone contributes to the team in some unique and important way. The work of education is hard and everyone is at a different place in their journey. Remember this and don’t take negative behavior personally. Be cognizant of your own mindset and ask yourself if you are “being the cream” in a given situation. Rise above negativity as a positive force within your school.

Go and be the base of the triangle, build a cultural foundation, and try to create a space for teachers to communicate their appreciations for one another. Find a quick and easy example here.

Sarah Hayden
Instructional Coach, TEEN TRUTH

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