The power of positivity through genuine relationships

Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) speaks often to the power of the “three Rs” relationships, relationships, relationships. So true, both in education and life without a solid relationship foundation what do we really have? Nothing. While relationships have become a buzzword lately it’s imperative these are genuine and not just “going through the motion” by “checking off the box.” The students we all serve can spot phony in a nanosecond. When we are truly invested in them as individuals far beyond mere data points, they know.

If you see my Twitter feed enough you know I send out daily motivations often early in the morning. Monday – #CelebrateMonday created by my pal Sean Gaillard; Tuesday – #TootlingTuesday created by my friend and district colleague Renee White; Wednesday – #WednesdayWisdom; Thursday – #ThoughtfulThursday; Friday – #FF (Follow Friday); Saturday – #SaturdaySpark and Sunday – #SundayMotivation. All of these daily tweets are designed to provide positivity in some fashion. Celebrating the great aspects of the school, regognizing district colleagues going above and beyond, inspirational quotes or sayings, providing PLN educators who might be beneficial to increase their personalized learning, the list goes on.

While daily tweets of inspiration, praise and thought are one thing how do we put relationships into action. Enter my work with two projects at both the elementary and middle school level.

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In 2011, when I was new to Twitter one of the first interactions I had on a “global level” (educators beyond my district and state level) was Angela Maiers. Angela had just rolled out her You Matter initiative and I was blown away.

Her work inspires me greatly and through bringing her You Matter movement to my previous school caused me to blog about the experience which led to a conference call with Angela, myself and school stakeholders. Angela’s overarching work and her Choose2Matter organziation (http://www.choose2matter.org) transformed the student and staff culture at Wendell Creative Arts and Science Magnet Elementary  and I’m so grateful for the opportunity Shane Barham afforded me to bring this initiative to his school.

When I transitioned curriculum coaching roles within our district from elementary to middle school levels one of the areas of attraction that led me to Carroll Leadership in Technology Magnet Middle School was the school had recently integrated the Positivity Project (https://posproject.org) I immediately saw the deep value in relationship as well as clear positivity of the initiative.

What was even more powerful once I arrived at the school was the ability to intertwine Positivity Project (P2) with our Leader in Me/Seven Habits which is part of of our magnet theme. Amazing, right? Excited to see where this program takes our school in 2017-18.

Even more exciting is as a pilot school in our district we recently invited over 30 other schools in our district to our school to learn more about P2 from our student leaders and the president and co-founder of Positivity Project, Mike Erwin. From that workshop we now have several new schools in our district planning to implement P2 for 2017-18. Strength in numbers – and a growing Positivity Project PLN within our own district. The #OtherPeopleMatter initiatives are powerful.

While all the inspirational tweets, blogs, initiatives, and are talk have great power none of these have true value or merit without genuine, ongoing relationships. Relationships with students, staff and community stakeholders. How are you doing in that department? Remember, the students we all serve can spot the artificial quickly. Be honest, reflect, improve. We all can. We are better together. After all, #KidsDeserveIt.

“You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.”

Several days a week I tweet out an inspirational message of leadership, thought or even something more specific to education. Normally these occur in the morning hours as I prepare my day often tagging fellow other educators within my PLN to share inspiration.

Recently the title of this blog went up in one as of the above mentioned positive tweets. “You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.” Simple but very powerful. I normally receive a lot of traction over these messages but this particular unanimous quote received heavy traffic throughout the day and going on throughout the week. I’m known for my love of positivity – I’ll find a silver lining in any situation. Perhaps this is why I chose that particular line. It seemed so “order of business” to me.

However, easier said than done, right? “Ah, that can’t be done” or “Well…you know the family situation…” We as educators have heard these types of lines time and time again throughout our careers.  Regardless of the type of school, district or setting we are working in we’ve heard those and similar lines repeatedly from colleagues. It’s an unfortunate reality.

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I’m a huge fan of Ted and TedX talks. One of my favorite Ted talks launched a few years ago. It stars Linda Cliatt-Wayman, the principal of Strawberry Mansion a high school in inner city Philadelphia who was tasked with turning the school around. At the time of her taking on the school this was seen as daunting with Strawberry Mansion being one of the most infamous schools in the nation for violence, lack of resources and bottom of the state test scores.  A few years after her taking over the school, ABC news picked up her story which is how I was first introduced to Cliatt-Wayman. http://abcnews.go.com/US/strawberry-mansion-high-uss-dangerous-schools-receives-needed/story?id=21084212

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Additionally, the Ted talk itself is pure gold. If you’ve not seen this power talk – do yourself a favor and spent the 17 minutes to watch. If you’re not inspired my Ms. Cliatt-Wayman afterwards, check your pulse. Linda Cliatt-Wayman 2015 Ted talk

What she faced was daunting beyond what the vast majority of educators across America will face in their lifetime and that’s saying a lot considering the challenges education presents regardless of our role(s). However, that didn’t stop her. She believed in every child in the building. She believed in every educator who truly believed every child could succeed. Every decision she made was best for kids. Again, every decision was centered on what was best to meet the overall needs of the students. Every.

Did the transformation happen overnight? Far from it. Were there days she wanted to throw in the towel? Almost certainly. Did she? Never. Why? What’s best for kids was the center over every single decision she made. She believed in them and wasn’t going to give up on them nor were those leaders in and out of the classroom at her school who believed in the students just as much. Powerful. Inspirational.

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Be mindful of impossible. Where there is a will there is a way. We must believe no matter how seemingly grim the situation. As I so often say, we must surround ourselves with those who encourage us to #BecomeBetter. We as leaders in education and life must embrace the positive and pass it along to those we interact with day to day.

As the great educational leader Jimmy Casas (@Casas_Jimmy)  said “As a leader model the behaviors you want to see repeated. Lead  with passion, focus on the three Rs, strive for excellence, serve others.” The three Rs being relationships, relationships, relationships. Power of positivity, taking time, fostering relationships for creation of a solid foundation and reflecting before action.

The students we all serve know when we’re being sincere or not. What will you do tomorrow to go the extra mile? Will you embrace the challenge or just accept the things as they’ve always been and not even attempt to take the chance, the risk, in order to make a positive change. #YouMatter and the world needs our contributions as the equally inspirational Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers) so famously said.

Will we accept the way we’ve done it? What about a reflective mindset and innovation to meet the needs of all learners? Ball is in our court.

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