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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You Can Quote Me On That

Every now and then I search various websites on the Internet to browse famous quotes. During that mental exploration I'll find one or two that particularly attract my attention - maybe the mood I'm in, or an alluring term, or just lyrical prose that strikes a chord within me.

Here are three quotes related to attitude that captured my focus., They are all attributed to the same person; famous American psychologist and philosopher William James.

"Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."
"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."
"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome."

Five months have now passed since I began work as superintendent of the Green Island School District. Much of my effort has been invested in addressing the importance of a positive attitude as leverage for success. While not as dramatic as a sweeping reform announced with fanfare, or as swift as a thunderous pronouncement of an infusion of new money, the focus on attitude can generate more lasting and more empowering results. Perhaps subtle enough that the various acts are lost on others or perceived as unconnected, the design of the strategy can nonetheless be potent.

It starts with greeting people at the sidewalk in front of the school as the school day is ready to unfold. It continues through pleasant exchanges each time I interact with people in the hallways, through the daily lunches with learners in the office of the superintendent, through the numerous letters of recognition and congratulation bearing school letterhead and mailed to recipients, and permeates interactions of all kinds. Each and every interaction is viewed as a potential opportunity to encourage a positive attitude with hope that it will subsequently be "paid forward" to someone else along the stream of interactions that occur countless times within a school building in the course of a day. Promoting and recognizing and rewarding evidence of a constructive and positive attitude must serve as our foundation. It simply mirrors the Golden Rule of treating others as you would like to be treated. As the leader of the district, I must set the example.

Before we can expect to realize our collective potential as a school of learners we must work together. That's difficult to do if we can't communicate and cooperate. And we aren't likely to engage in collaboration if we don't know each other, care for each other, and commit to common goals and shared meanings. Clearly, a positive attitude can stimulate and optimize success. It has the prospect of becoming contagious. With enough momentum, it can become like a snowball being rolled in snow and accumulating a greater mass as it moves along a path.

It's been nice to see an example of that as our school now extends a program to adults that was formerly devoted to learners. I'm referring to the "Gotcha" program that has acknowledged and rewarded learners who were caught displaying a positive act. The names of recipients are placed into a basket for a drawing at regular intervals to identify lucky winners of various prizes. A brainstorming session of a recent District Leadership Team produced the suggestion that we include adults in the program by allowing learners to exercise the opportunity to catch adults exhibiting positive acts and citing the instance for the "Gotcha" program.

Re-read those quotes from the start of the Blog and reflect on their meaning. How's your attitude? Are you sharing that with others?

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