The Sochi 2014 Winter  Olympics is in day five so there’s lots of talk in the media about what’s going on in the various Winter Olympic sports.  Yesterday I was listening to a local radio station, probably CBC Radio 1,  and I heard a someone ( sorry, didn’t catch the name) say that kids participating in sports and losing can teach kids valuable lessons. The speaker noted not everyone who participates in sports wins, in fact, the vast majority of people who participate in sports lose. He thought losing in sports could help kids learn how to deal with defeat. To be honest, I hadn’t considered participating and losing in sports a learning opportunity- other improving technique, strategy and trying harder. I did think about how losing in sports could teach kids something about entitlement: just because you participate in sports doesn’t entitled you to win.  I don’t think the trend to not keeping score when kids participate in sports and thereby not have winners and losers is especially helpful.  What does it teach kids?  How does that prepare them for life?

I think additional learning opportunities present themselves when  kids participate in sports and lose: kids have the opportunity to develop their emotional intelligence, their  ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Emotional intelligence includes

  •  managing one’s own impulses
  • having empathy for others
  • communicating effectively
  • solving problems
  • using humor to build rapport
  • remaining optimistic in spite of stresses
  • managing change

What’s the big deal about high emotional intelligence? Why is emotional intelligence worth developing? Individuals with high emotional intelligence are able to make better choices for better consequences in life and at work and are better able to achieve a balance between work, home and recreational life.

As I write this post, I’m beginning to see the teaching opportunity I’d have and the learning opportunity my students would have when they  lose or for that matter when they win when participating in sports. I could help them develop their emotional intelligence. I could help my students who win become more empathetic toward my students who lose. I think I could help my students learn to manage their own impulses, remain optimistic in spite of losing, and so on.

Maybe other losses students experience could also be teaching and learning opportunities.  I guess the thing is someone has to be there when students experience losses and help them deal with their  losses in such a way as to strengthen their emotional intelligence. I want my students to be able to take something positive away from any losses they experience. I want my students to be able to make the best possible choices for the best possible outcomes in their lives.






I used to feel quite anxious about starting to teach classes in the new school year. I learned to prepare for the new school year by taking certain steps.  I’d like to share a post I wrote earlier about what I do to help me prepare for that first week of classes.


The first day of school is fast approaching, and I really need to start to  think about getting ready for it.  I’ve been teaching for a while so there have been many first days, and I’m pleased  to say ( actually I’m quite relieved to say ) that I’ve found steps to take that make that first day and that first week a success. That first week is so important because it sets the  tone for the rest of the semester.
I’m going to remind myself of what to do to have a successful first day and first week by reviewing the strategies I use for each step.  I invite you to review each step  with me, so just click on the link I’ve provided in each step.

Step 1- Reduce Stress

Just thinking about  the first day of school itself can be stressful,  but it needn’t be.      Here’s why.

Step 2- Think positively

Think positively. If you have a positive attitude you’ll believe and act as if all students will be successful in your class. If you have a positive attitude there are no losers in your classroom despite what you’ve might have heard. Students will live up to your expectations. Think and act as if students are trouble, believe me they won’t disappoint you. Here’s why.

Step 3- Remember the nine lessons your students taught you about classroom management

Your students will tell you by their behaviour what they like and don’t like all you have to do is ask them. Here’s what my students told me.

Step 4- Create the class rules or agreements collaboratively

Create the classroom agreements together and students are more likely to buy into them.  Here’s how I do that and the Slideshare Video I use to review our agreements.

Step 5- Remember respect in the classroom is a two way street

Step 6- Get your students   to tell you how they feel about different aspects of school

Remember respect is a two way street going from the teacher to the student and from the student to the teacher.  As much as I would like it to be, respect for teachers  isn’t always automatic.  It must be earned. Here’s what I do.

Step 6- Get students to tell me how they feel about different aspects of school

It’s good to get students to reflect about different aspects of school in and out of the classroom.  The information that I get from these questionnaires help me better understand my students and informs my interactions with them.  I ask these questions.

Step 7-  Realize that a students emotional state will affect a student’s learning and behaviour

Realize that the emotional state of a student can thwart learning.  Consider this.

change mindset

Your mindset in and out of the classroom affects more people than you think.  Monique Valcour argues people’s mindsets at work not only impact their coworkers but also impact people’s partners, their family members, their networks and even the larger community. She explains people take  work related stress home and it negatively impacts the  well being of family members, and it can even affect children’s school performance. Valcour illustrates this  point by giving us the following example:  Individuals with a distrustful mindset who are very competitive at work and try to get ahead by taking credit, withholding or distorting information, assigning blame, or  shifting allegiances undermine the organization’s effectiveness by driving up stress and burnout in others.

I totally agree with Valcour.  I’ve worked with educators who’ve had negative mindsets and their negativity did affect me negatively at work and at home.  I’m sure you can think of instances when you’ve been affected negatively by a colleagues negative mindset. On the other hand, I’ve worked with educators who’ve had positive mindsets such as the mindsets of openness, trust and generosity.  These mindsets affected me positively at work and affected my family positively at  home. I’m sure you can think of  times when you’ve been affected positively by colleagues’ positive mindsets.  I can also think of times when I might of had a less than positive mindset and affected others negatively. I regret those instances but what can I say except I’m not perfect.

I just thought of an example when I changed my mindset about something  felt much better about my situation at work and went home happy and much less stressed. Bruce (not his real name)  and I taught the same subject for years. When we first started working together, I had hoped we could work together and create materials to use in our classes.   I’d worked with a colleague before in just this way and absolutely loved co-creating or creating and sharing lessons, handouts, etc. Unfortunately, Bruce and I didn’t have this type of working relationship. Bruce would simply take the  lessons, handouts etc. I’d created and use them but not give me any in return.  I thought that was so unfair and developed the mindset that Bruce  was exploiting me. I became very stressed by this. I talked about “the Bruce situation” all the time. My husband (bless him) finally told me he didn’t want to hear any more about Bruce- so you get the picture.  One day, for some reason,  I decided I would just share everything with Bruce that I created and not expect anything in return. I felt so great after I’d made that decision. I don’t know why I felt that way but the stress and resentment was gone.   It was so easy once I changed my mindset about “the Bruce situation” from resentment to generosity. I still don’t quite understand it, but being generous brought me well being.

It is astonishing how important the positive mindsets of our coworkers are to our well being. Valcour, citing Adam Grant , shares data from a 20-year longitudinal study of healthy people that reported people with social support from co-workers  were two and a half times  less likely to die prematurely than individuals who didn’t have positive co-worker  support. I’d come to realize over the years that positive support from my colleagues was psychologically beneficial , but I had no idea positive support from colleagues was that important  for  my physical well being.

Obviously a positive mindset is better for us and everyone around us. My question is how do you  recognize your negative mindsets and how do you go about changing them?   Any suggestions?








Schools  are often hyperkinetic environments.  Teachers are busy in the classroom, supervising hallways and lunchrooms, and busy supporting students’ extra curricular activities. When extra curricular activities coincide with exam and report card times, teachers’ lives can be crazy.  It seems to me during those extra frenetic times when I was super busy in and out of the classroom, I got to the point where I feel a constant low level of panic  and guilt.  While at work I felt as if I wasn’t spending enough time with family; while at home I felt I wasn’t spending enough time with work. I’m certain I’m not the only teacher to feel this way. I could hardly wait for the extra crazy times at school  to be over.  I’d swear the extra crazy times at school affected my brain so I couldn’t function normally. Well, it appears I was correct thinking my brain wasn’t functioning well during those hyperkinetic times during the school year.

Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist, says there’s a newly recognized neurological phenomenon called Attention Deficit Trait that explains the brain’s response to the craziness of a hyerkinetic workplace. When  people are trying to deal with more input than they possibly can,  they have difficulty setting proprieties, staying organized, and managing time and  feel low levels of panic guilt.  Gee, I thought I was just overwhelmed and couldn’t cope.

Hallowell suggests  we can help control ADTs  by getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and getting adequate exercise. He maintains we need to have a “human moment”- a face-to-face exchange with someone you like every few hours.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it’s not always possible to find the time for  that “human moment” at work.  I guess I should make the time.  Taking the time for a pleasant face-to-face exchange with someone at work when the environment gets more and more crazed would fall into the category of working smarter, not harder. Of course doing things such as breaking large tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks and  keeping your desk organized and free from clutter (my greatest challenge) will help control ADT.

I’ve found after I’ve been in  hyperkinetic environment for a while, I begin to long for silence and solitude and head. My favourite place to find  silence and solitude is along the banks of the Credit River. A walk along the Credit River is so restorative and helps put things into perspective.   What do you do when you want to stop the world and get off for an hour or so?


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