By Brandy Reeder
Yesterday was one of the most frigid days ever out on the bus lot. The wind was whipping, and kids were crowded around one another attempting to keep warm. I was out there, bundled up, so I could monitor student behavior. As a bus was pulling away, I noticed a large group of boys gathered in a circle. They were loud, overly excited, and even jumping up and down and yelling at times. I knew the situation needed investigation, so I made my way over to the crowd. So many thoughts whirled through my mind on my way. Maybe they were throwing dice and placing bets. Maybe they were watching something not so savory on a phone. Maybe they were making fun of one another’s shoes or pants—or maybe even one another. One thing was for sure—they weren’t reviewing math facts, studying for a test, or discussing the current weather we were experiencing. They had to be up to no good!
The closer I got the louder they became. Two kids at a time were facing off, and the winner was yelling out ecstatically. Finally, I zeroed in on the action. They were playing rock, paper, scissors. The excitement was contagious, and I jumped into the game. I lost miserably, and several of the young men offered to teach me the rules of the game. We were loud, exuberant, and engaged in the action. Who would reign supreme in this game of yesteryear?
Ever since this experience, I keep thinking about how many times we jump to conclusions in our work as educators. Unfortunately, the conclusions are usually negative ones. What makes us wired this way? What makes us automatically think that whatever is happening is not good? Another perfect example comes from a colleague of mine. A teacher had taken a class outside for recess, and my colleague noticed that the teacher was using her cell phone. The assumption was that the teacher was texting, using social media, or doing something else that was frowned upon while monitoring students. The reality was that the teacher was assessing students and tracking their progress with an app in order to use data to drive her instruction the next day. Imagine my colleague’s surprise after further investigating the situation.
How do we retrain our thought processes to expect the best from others? How can we ensure that when we evaluate scenarios, we pull evidence in a way that shines a positive light on all variables? Is it possible to change our culture from one of finding fault to one of excavating excellence? I believe it is possible to change our culture. I believe we can train our minds to see the good all around us. I know it can be done. From now on, when we are looking at other people and situations, we should try to think of at least two positive possibilities before we jump to negative assumptions. After all, if you expect the best, you just might not be surprised.
Brandy Reeder is an assistant principal for Davidson County Schools in North Carolina. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in school administration, and she is currently working on her doctorate in education leadership at Western Carolina University.