As I reflect on the previous teaching year, I notice that I am much more excited to begin the year than I was this time last year. The second part of this post is a blog post that I made almost exactly a year ago on my old platform, and I can’t believe the different tone it portrays for the beginning of the year. Since this post from 2016 was written, A LOT has changed in education on PEI. Everything that I prefaced the article with has been resolved–for now. The province went through a lengthy (and pretty controversial) school re-organization process that left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths. The way it was handled could have been different but the changes they implemented were a long time coming and were desperately needed. Although some much needed changes didn’t happen, there was some good that came out of that too. From it came MORE teaching positions for the province to redistribute staff that had been shifted during the re-organization. Also, schools that had under-staffed music allotments now have adequate staffing to cover every music class in the building without doubling up classes (including mine). I know that not all of us may be coming into the year on a positive note so I thought that re-posting this in this capacity was appropriate and even though this was published a year ago under a much different light, the essence of the post is still exactly the same and much can be learned from it. Please take a look!
As in many Canadian provinces, this is a hard time for teachers. This seems even more true for teachers of the arts and music. We are constantly being pushed to the side to make way for numeracy and literacy and sometimes rules that are put in place to protect teachers are only followed with non-specialist teachers. Prince Edward Island has gone through a significant change in its school system. The government is now the sole entity of English education in the province, meaning the English Language School Board has been dissolved into the Department of Education, Early Learning, and Culture. Also, with budget cuts, schools over the last few years have not been given an adequate number of teaching positions for their schools and have been forced to cut teachers from their schools. In many cases, these positions end up being specialist positions that go beyond the bare minimum required for the school. The solution is doubling up music classes to get them all in, working our music teachers to the brink of burn-out. It has been difficult to go into this year thinking positively.
Things get worse before they get better and there are so many things to be negative about right now, but what is the point? We can moan and complain all we want but that just makes things worse. I always tell my students that negativity is contagious, but so is positivity. We’ve all seen when that one student groans about a particular game or activity and made your blood almost boil because 5 other kids did the same thing because their thoughts were validated by the first kid. Then it causes others to wonder if they should be thinking like that. But if one student cheers, most or all cheer.
There are a lot of things I can’t control but there are many things that I can. I can’t control the economy, or losing teachers, or growing classes, but I can control my attitude. The last thing I want is to be that crotchety old teacher, close to retirement, who complains about every government policy, every student, and brings down the entire staff with their negativity. Every school has one of those teachers, and if you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you! I recently came across an article by Travis Bradberry about how complaining actually rewires your brain to be negative. The more you repeat a behaviour, Bradberry says, your neurons create an easier flow of information making it much easier to repeat later on. And, he says, complaining “changes the way people perceive you.” This is true for any behaviour, not just negative behaviour. If we apply this science to positive thinking, it would do the exact same thing in a person’s brain. In music teacher terms, ‘practice makes perfect.’ It is the basis of learning any new skill, and we sometimes forget it.
Positive thinking is a learned skill like any other skill. As difficult as it is, focus on the positive, and celebrate the small victories, because the more we think positively, the easier it becomes. If a board isn’t treating you fairly, what are the good things about your school and your staff? If you have a challenging group of students, what is something they have done well? Those small victories are what make it worth it in the end.
I will leave you with an article about happiness and positive thinking that changed the way I perceive my own behaviour and thinking. I have referred to it a few times since I saw it for the first time. Here it is: http://time.com/49947/happy-thoughts-here-are-the-things-proven-to-make-you-happier/
Bradberry, T. (2016, August 8). Why complaining rewires your Brain to be negative. Retrieved from World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/08/why-complaining-rewires-your-brain-to-be-negative/
See, things DO always get worse before they get better! On this same theme, check out my guest post on positive thinking published on ProfessionalMusicEducator.com, it’s relevant to any time of year:
Are there any strategies you use to stay positive throughout the year?
Until next time, Happy Musicking!