Attitudes Are Contagious
Andrew – Lead Literacy Interventionist
K-3 Reading Corps – Kentwood Public Schools
There is a saying: “Attitudes are contagious; is yours worth catching?” In the past, when I worked as a teacher, I put up a poster in my classroom with this saying on it. I wanted it to be a reminder to students that however they chose to act would affect those around them. I needed and still need this reminder for myself as well. How easily I can bring personal issues to my service site each day and allow it to negatively affect my ability to serve students! Being on guard against this is so important, not only for my sake, but also and especially for the sake of the kids I serve. And if I see an attitude problem with a student, it is important to address this as soon as possible. Just as my attitude can affect a student, so also a student’s attitude can potentially affect me. Feeding off each other’s negative energy would be a recipe for disaster!
This year I have a student I’ll call Johnny. I really like working with him, but he does have a tendency to have a bad attitude, sometimes so much so that he will refuse to work or even come to the reading room with me. One way I solved this issue was by being very calm with him. One day, when I called him for his session, he angrily got up from his seat and stormed ahead of me down the hallway toward the reading room. As I followed him down the hall, I pondered what to say when we got there. Should I ask him what was wrong? Should I tell him I would listen if he wanted to talk about something? I don’t think either of these things would have been bad to say, but I chose not to say anything at all about his apparent anger. Instead, when we arrived at the reading room, I calmly took my seat next to him, went through our usual behavior expectations, and began the lesson just like normal. I remained calm and gentle, yet I spoke and acted in such a way that he knew I was expecting him to read and act normally. The result was that he immediately began reading as if he had never shown any signs of being angry or upset. I believe being calm with him helps him keep a positive attitude.
Another way I help Johnny maintain a positive attitude is by encouraging him in his work. I try to use lots of praise, both general and specific, and just be happy and genuine with him. The effects of this are usually very evident. One particular day, Johnny had a really good session, and I could hardly believe how quickly the time had gone. I remarked on this to him and said, “Well as they say, time flies when you’re having fun.” At a session not long after this, Johnny said to me (without any prompting): “I can’t believe how fast today went. Time flies when you’re having fun!” Indeed! I was amused by this, but it later dawned on me that he wasn’t just copying words I had told him before. Rather, he was mimicking an attitude that I had instilled within him. I never had to literally say to him, “Have a good attitude.” Rather, he learned it from my example, which is not surprising, for that is one of the most powerful ways to teach. I hope my example to him and others will continue to be positive, and that my attitude will always be worth catching.