C.M. Corner: The Power of Your Attitude

Travis Chapman

One of the most effective, yet least considered aspects of classroom management is control over our own attitude.  There are a variety of things that happen during the course of the school day, for better or for worse.  Most people have heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words,” but few consider the implications of their own actions.  We need to not only respond appropriately, but model the same behavior we desire from our students.  If we are unable to adjust or handle those various changes, how are we to expect our students to do the same? 
One of the things I really enjoy talking about in some of our in-person trainings is managing ourselves.  Life happens and there are a million things that need to be addressed.  However, you can’t do anything about most of these things while at work.  This is a skill I have been personally learning and continue to work on.  The goal is to find ways to set the other various aspects of life aside and focus on the day happening now.  If one focuses on a busy schedule, bills, what happened yesterday, or a family situation; when something happens, they aren’t able to have the mental space to process and deal with it in the moment.  The situation becomes another factor for frustration and they may lose the ability to address the situation all together.  In that frame of mind, we most often turn toward a victim mentality of “why me?”  There are a lot of unfortunate or undesired things that happen in life.  It is simply part of living.  But if we can set those aside and focus on the task at hand and helping our students, then we can open all of that mental space for that one purpose.  When a student challenges authority, students get into an argument or a crisis occurs; this internal action will ensure we are mentally prepared to deal with the situation.
Now, setting things aside is only a portion of keeping your attitude in your control.  The second part is choice.  Most people confuse attitude with emotion.  They are not the same.  Emotion is a feeling, while attitude is more about our outlook or our general approach.  When we have a problem that we are trying to work through, our emotion may be frustration, but our attitude may be one of determination to overcome it. It could be also be resignation that it won’t be solved, hope that it will change,  or maybe we decide to no longer care about the problem and walk away from it.  Our emotions are affected by any number of things and we can’t change our emotional state in an instant.  However, the real power lies in our response, what we choose to do and how we choose to behave in spite of those emotions.  If a student is challenging your authority, it probably causes frustration.  But how are you going to respond to the situation?  With a sharp tone and glaring eyes?  A calm, neutral tone of voice? By ignoring the behavior and giving your attention to appropriate behavior?  Our students are more likely to follow the behavior that we model.  When we choose a positive attitude, we create a safer, more positive learning environment and encourage our students to choose the same.
I encourage you to take a moment and consider what your attitude has been in your classrooms.  Think of a few different instances working with students, a great day, a bad day and one where there were challenges.  What happened those days?  What were the emotions you felt?  What did you choose to do?  What did you model for the students you were working with?  The more we understand what we do in various situations, the easier it is to address issues and ensure we are a positive influence and role model for our students.