Magazine article The Learning Professional

A Shift in Perspective Can Change Our Attitudes and Our Outcomes

Magazine article The Learning Professional

A Shift in Perspective Can Change Our Attitudes and Our Outcomes

Article excerpt

I'm writing this in the early morning while savoring the effects of a shiftin attitude before I finished my coffee. My friend Maggie had forwarded me an email: Happy IVGLDSW Day! Today is International Very Good Looking Damn Smart Woman's Day. I don't appreciate most "send-this-to-five-people-you-know" emails, but this one offered perspective and attitude. Example: When life hands you lemons, ask for tequila and salt and call me! This article is about perspective and the results it produces. I began today by looking into the mirror and thinking, "What happened to you?" Now that I've shifted to "Good morning, you very good-looking, damn smart woman!" I'm smiling and I have a new perspective about the day ahead.

- Susan Scott

About a decade ago, I came across the following passage from Haim Ginott, child psychologist and psychotherapist and a parent educator.

"I've come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized" (Ginott, 1972).

This quotation speaks strongly to me because I see its application to every individual. As a parent, as a human being, as a team member, a boss, I create the weather around me, and I either humanize or dehumanize those with whom I come in contact, one interaction at a time. It is a frightening conclusion, as Ginott said, and an indication of the inordinate power we each have to drive our lives and the relationships we foster or destroy. Years of education research indicate that what teachers believe about students and learning influences their instructional choices. This applies to anyone. Beliefs lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. If I find myself believing my students, my colleagues, or my boss are annoying, how do these beliefs impact how I behave with them? Does my behavior then influence the results I have with them? You bet.

Our beliefs inform our practice. It's human nature to look outside for cause and effect, but our greatest power for shifting our results lies within. I've repeated this mantra to myself over the years: My greatest work is inner work. I feel 80% of the work in my outcomes is dealing with my own beliefs and behavior, by far the greatest challenge. Gaining perspective on a situation or a person can change everything about my conversations with that person and our collective outcomes.

The most common outcome of conversation is misunderstanding and misinterpretation. It is human nature to misread a situation or a person completely, and it's stubborn to insist that we didn't.


Each of us has a filter through which we interpret everything that's said or done. This filter - our context - is made up of our beliefs, attitudes, and opinions, many of them unconscious. Through our context, we constantly interpret what people do and say. Where we often get it wrong is we assume our interpretations are true without checking them out. And then we pay a steep price by locking into our own beliefs or the ongoing conversations we have with ourselves.

My context drives my behavior, my results, and my life. It's up to me to examine my beliefs, understand which ones are in my way, and make some choices.

A school leader once told me he had one of the greatest lessons in his life as a middle school teacher. He believed his students were difficult, lazy troublemakers. The more he reinforced this attitude, the more they acted out. The more they acted out, the crabbier he got. The crabbier he got, the worse their behavior became. He realized he fueled the cycle, and his students were in large part reacting to his behavior. …

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