Today is Friday!

Image of a shoreline of a Lake Erie beach Yes, today is Friday. TGIF.

Remember, a few days ago I posted about taking that Friday “feeling” and applying it to other days.

It’s time to do that! I am guessing, you are:

– excited about the weekend

– in a good mood

– treating people a little better

– working in time to see family and friends

So…take that feeling and go with it. I.e. what are you feeling? What do you “see” in your mind? What do you “hear?” For example, in your mind’s voice, say right now “It’s Friday!!!” and be super excited. What does the voice sound like? Is it confident? Is it you or somebody else? Remember that voice. Use it on the rest of the week.

See, you can be excited every day. You can be in a good mood all of the time. You can treat people better every day. You can be hang out with people on week nights too.

So, have at it! Enjoy your Friday…and every other day!

Getting That Friday Feeling On Monday Through Thursday

A girl with her arms wrapped around a few pumpkins in midst of lots of them

This is cute. Laugh

I think it is funny how everyone on my Facebook feed gets excited about Friday. I knew I was getting older when my friends and I began talking about how great Fridays are. Of course, the other, often unspoken, component of all that Friday love is the strong dislike of Monday through Thursday.

First, I think it is a real issue that most people really do dread Monday through Thursday. “Work” has become less of a “calling” related to improving your life and that of others through meaningful labor, and more about eking out a meager existence by being indentured to a faceless company to be able to afford more cheap plastic crap you won’t have time to enjoy anyway because you work too much and are paralyzed by stress. This is a post in its entirety, which I promise is coming soon. The whole way we view work and its place in our lives need massively re-imagined in the Western world…but like I said, I will tackle that later in a few posts, or maybe a book.

I have mentioned over and over and over and over (did I mention over and over) again that reality is not “out there” but inside your head. Emotionally neutral events happen and your response and/or feelings result. Your reaction depends on what is going on inside your head. A major concert promoter in the center of Manhattan hates rain; a Midwestern farmer living through a drought loves it.

On Fridays, most of us view the world differently. We give ourselves permission to think and act in ways we normally wouldn’t. We are relaxed. We have a good time. We understand that work will wait until Monday. Bosses give employees a break, and the entire atmosphere is more easy-going. People may even be allowed to go home early. For professionals, Friday creates a kind of mass perpetual shift.

But…can you imagine taking the thoughts and actions that make Friday so good and transfer them to Monday through Thursday? Can you approach Monday the same way you do Friday? Can you allow your business or organization do the same?

Sure you can do it. A day of the week doesn’t determine whether you are happy. You can be happy today. It’s doesn’t have to be Friday for you to be relaxed and cool to your co-workers. Do that today. Do it now!

One easy way is to become aware of your feelings on Fridays. What do you feel? When you are feeling these good feelings, set an anchor. Squeeze your index finger and thumb together Every time you feel those good feelings, do this. This is called “setting an anchor” in Neurolinguistic Programming. Then, on Monday-Thursday, whenever you need that “Friday boost” just “fire” that anchor by squeezing your index finger and thumb. The key thing is that you recall those feelings and thoughts that make Friday so great. You don’t even need to anchor the feeling. Just purposefully recall that Friday feeling and act on it.

Or if you need a quick boost of happy feelings, look at the photo above right of my niece!

So, next time you are on Facebook, I hope you’ll be posting TGIM, TGIT, TGIW…and so forth, to impress and baffle your friends. Every day can feel just like Friday!

What Is Shortening Your Life Today?

A statue near a tombstone of a woman kneelingScience tells us that anxiety and stress can literally kill us. If we constantly get worked up over everything, research suggests that our risk of early death increases from a variety of causes, including cancer, heart disease, and even accidents and injuries. In other words, stress kills.

However, one of the biggest myths about stress and anxiety is that something “out there” causes it. Stress and anxiety are internal (i.e. brain and body) reactions  to outside stimuli. Whether you believe it is chemical in nature (it is) or it is controlled by the mind/working brain (it is), the result is that anxiety literally is “all in your head.”

The other day I was waiting in line for some coffee, picking up some food for a group of is. My friend was in the car with me, literally experiencing the same stimuli as I. There were people back home chomping at the bit to eat, and our fifteen minute wait in line for three coffees was a tad frustrating to say the least. Nonetheless, I was happy and enjoying the time away from everything. I was looking forward to the delicious coffee, with sweet cream and mint-chocolate flavoring. I was happily anticipating the beautiful brown ambrosia hitting my tongue. My friend was getting anxious, and worried about people getting anxious back home. A friend even called, which he immediately predicted had to be about their pending impatience.

In the end, nobody back home was impatient, at least not that we were told. The phone call was about something else. And yes, the coffee was delicious. Had our friends at home been impatient, and the call been an anxiety-filled admonition, we still wouldn’t have made it through line any quicker. In other words, the only real issue boiled down to what was happening inside each of our heads. We literally experienced the same stimuli, with different reactions. Same stimuli, and different body physiology. I probably gained an hour of life, he probably lost one.

Everyday little things work us up. Things that don’t matter shorten our lives. So, what has shortened your life today? Below are a few things that have worked me or others up, that just aren’t worth losing days of precious life. Don’t laugh. These may not be your issues, but I am sure you have your own. Actually, do laugh. You’ll live longer.

– Bad Traffic
– A restaurant dish being less cheesy than expected
– Someone stopping for coffee on the way home from a trip
– Getting a phone call at the wrong time
– A cap gun being fired inside a house accidentally
– Being a few minutes late for church
– A magnet being moved a few inches on a refrigerator

Happy Thanksgiving From Popular Teacher

A table all set for thanksgiving dinner

Today is Thanksgiving, a day when most Americans are taking a break from the rat race and taking time to relax with family and friends. I have been fortunate that I have been either a student or teacher for most of my life, and have never had to worry about working on Thanksgiving.

I have great memories of Thanksgiving, and it has an almost magical quality because of this. I am very thankful that I have a long weekend to focus on what matters in my life: family, friends, and God.

It is easy to focus on the negative things in life: problem students, increasing state regulations, pay freezes, etc. These are unfortunate things, but nonetheless, we all have many good things in life. Take this Thanksgiving and relax. Mindfully enjoy the food, friends, and family, and live today to its fullest. While you are at it, live every day the exact same way.


Five Ways To Get Students To Like You Without Lowering Standards

Girl giving a thumb's up

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net and “imagerymajestic”

Recently our school handed out surveys to various stakeholders in the school. One group that received it was students. Many of us questioned the usefulness of asking students their views of the school. Obviously, a student will have a different perspective of what constitutes a good school. I remember when I was in high school, I had different goals and needs from my school experience than the teachers did. While I did care about learning, they never asked me “is this school a great environment to get a date?” Now that was feedback I cared about.

Nonetheless, I think it is important to care about student satisfaction. Education is supposed to be about the students. While we are certainly guiding them, which means there will be moments when we have to do things in their best interest that they may not appreciate until later, we nonetheless have to consider student satisfaction. I find that it is pretty easy to keep students satisfied, even when you challenge them, if you keep a few key points in mind. Sure there will be students that will never want to learn and will resist any goodwill efforts on your part, but for the most part, you can win over students by using the following tips:

Establish a Relationship (Appropriate) With Students.

Students are humans. They want to have meaningful interactions with people around them. Some teachers purposefully set themselves up as distant authority figures. I believe you will find the most success if you are an authority figure, but one that they like. Students are more likely to accept your criticism and discipline if they like you. Don’t be inappropriate (you aren’t their buddy), but nonetheless you have to be likable.

When I first started teaching, I believed I had to be a hard-ass, which is to say “no smiling to Christmas.” It backfired horribly. I lost pretty much an entire grade of students because I acted hard first, and and then tried (and failed) to build rapport later.

Show Them You Want Them to Succeed

In college, I had a professor that tore my papers to shreds (not literally; figuratively. See, he taught me that!). It made me the writer I am today. I appreciated every single blot of red ink he put on my papers. Why? I knew he wanted me to succeed. His style, words, and actions told me he was caring, friendly, and knew what he was talking about. Even though he was difficult, he worked with students in class and outside of it to help students understand more clearly. I managed an “A” for that quarter, and I am still thankful for his constructive criticism. Had he been an uncaring, distant jerk, I likely would have resented any positive criticism, and I would still be talking about how that red ink scarred me for life.

Be Fair and Don’t “Trick Them”

One of my high school teachers (we’ll call her Mrs. Q.) was a great instructor in terms of content knowledge, but her personal style caused many students to resent her. I tried to like Mrs. Q., but it would be a stretch to say I did. Even now, I respect certain aspects of her teaching, but haven’t “come to appreciate” other ones. One time we got out of an assembly with literally one minute to go in 6th period. A few of my friends went ahead to 7th period class. The 7th period teachers in question had no problem with it, but Mrs. Q. did, and gave the students that went to 7th period, “skipping” her class for less than 60 seconds, a detention. In another instance, Mrs. Q. was subbing for a study hall, and a lot of us were talking, and apparently we weren’t supposed to. Instead of saying “hey guys, please be quiet,” we saw Mrs. Q. sneakily taking down names, as if to say “gotcha!” Maybe she relaxed with age, since she was a young teacher. I sure hope she did!

Also, I highly suggest you avoid tricking your students on assignments. Avoid “gotcha” moments that penalize students. If you want them to discover something above and beyond what is expected, make sure they aren’t being penalized for such enquiry. Instead of a moment of discovery it becomes a moment of resentment.

Move On Quickly From Discipline and Incidents

I have a friend who dated a girl that he later regretted dating. During the peak of the relationship, he and this girlfriend posed for a photo together, wearing matching flannel shirts. It was definitely worthy of Epic Fail. One time when I ran into him, I said “hey man, do you remember when you and Jennifer took that photo together?” He replied “how can I forget when you keep reminding me every time we meet??” He was joking, as was I, but it brings up a real point, which is that after you get punished, you don’t want to wallow in it.

Most students are embarrassed from punishment and negative incidents, and just want to move on. They want to see that you have moved on as well. Unfortunately, many teachers view punishment as punitive as opposed to rehabilitative, so emotionally “freezing out” a student for a week could be part of the “punishment” for a student talking out of turn. In other words, many teachers hold grudges and never move on. Instead of this, I prefer to assertively communicate my displeasure with student actions, and if that doesn’t work, I provide discipline, and then I move on. Embarrassment, guilt, and emotional games don’t help students learn and they certainly aren’t going to make students want to learn from you.

Give Students Choice (or at Least Perceived Choice)

One of the best ways to increase satisfaction with anything is to increase decision latitude. Decision latitude is your ability to be in control of choices that affect your life (or, a lack of ability). Teachers have a lot of latitude. We get paid to come to school. We can drink coffee at our desks, leave the room to use the restroom if we have to go, glance at an incoming text message from our buddies, and even arrive to class late occasionally, without penalty. If we are feeling tired or loaded with work, we pass out worksheets and catch up on work. This means we have a lot of decision latitude.

Now, let’s switch it. Students can’t drink coffee or pop if they are dragging that morning. They may, with embarrassment, have to explain in front of the class why their request to go to the bathroom really is “an emergency.” If they arrive late to class, they get punished. If they are loaded with work and have a huge test coming up, they still may have to work from bell-to-bell in the class before their big test. They can’t check their phone to get that emotional boost from their friends. In a word, they lack decision latitude.

I am not saying kids should have as much control as teachers. What I am saying is that they deserve some control. An easy way to give them some decision latitude even as you are struggling to cover every single new standard the state is throwing at you is to give them perceived choice. For example, you could say “do you want to read this passage together aloud, or quietly at your desks?” Notice they have no choice as to the day’s task (reading) or the content, but you are offering them some choice in the matter. Believe me, even little choices matter.

Sure, not every student will be satisfied no matter what you do, but there are ways to improve student satisfaction and keep high standards.

The Health Benefits of Friends

friends walking on a pathThis is a good post to write on a Friday. According to Real Age, studies have shown that having friends can keep you healthy. Regularly interacting and having fun with others keeps you young and healthy. This is no surprise, because first-and-foremost, we are social animals.

Despite pretty much everybody (from many religions to public education) telling us that reality is about knowing things, I would argue that our human reality is about relating to people. Knowing things is great, and my college degrees (and student loans) remind me regularly that I do value knowledge, but we can’t forget relationships either.

This research isn’t really a surprise, but it is something teachers can easily take for granted. We are told “don’t be friends with students” and “it is inappropriate to be friends with your colleagues.” I understand the merits of each statement, and can partially agree. However, part of our modern jumpy, regulation-crazy, society is that we immediately sterilize all relationships and exclude the dreaded “f” word from our vocabulary. We are asked to objectively and stiffly relate to all kinds of people.

In our modern world it is very easy to be friendless, or to have 2000 friends on Facebook but to be very lonely in reality. In the future, I will post some ways to make friends easily. Until then, consider the possibility that friends are pretty much the most important thing you can have. If work, curriculum, etc, is overtaking your time to relate to others, has your life gone totally off course?

I highly suggest stopping by our sister site The Popular Man, to get some ideas about how to make friends. Everybody wants friends, and if you can be that cool, fun, and empathetic person everybody is looking for, you will have more friends than you know what to do with.

Nine (Unconventional) Truths I Have Learned About Teaching

Front of school building with flagpole and American flag

I have almost 10 years of teaching experience. I started as a sub for three years, and now I am on my 7th year of full-time teaching. I have learned a few things along the way, a lot of it considered unconventional and unorthodox by many.

Ignore Some Things

Sometimes it is just better to “unsee” and “unhear” things students do and say. My job is to be a teacher, not a human surveillance system. Most of us never would have left the detention room in school had our teachers busted us for everything we did. I always thought my teachers were too old and just missed all of my nonsense. Now I realize they were just smart.

Give Kids Breaks

One day I forgot my work keys. Another teacher opened the door for me. I didn’t get detention. Another day I was slow to turn in a report because I was freaking busy. I didn’t get yelled at; I was just asked to turn it in a few days later. We all need some slack sometimes, so why not apply this to our students too? You’re not weak if you give kids breaks.

Give Your Peers a Break

Your principal? Yeh, she’s under some stress too. That fellow teacher that drives you crazy? He could be under the same stresses you are. If you are sick of people always assuming the worst about your motivations, then stop assuming the worst about other people’s.

It’s All Small Stuff

Most of the day-to-day “hassles” are minor compared to the real tragedies in life. A former student of mine was shot and killed by her husband a few weeks ago. That is important. Most of my “stresses” aren’t. In the long run, who cares if Blake talks too much or Ashley is chewing gum. I am not saying discipline isn’t sometimes called for; I am just reminding us that these are small things indeed.

Don’t Wait To Laugh It Off

NLP co-founder Richard Bandler reminds us that if you say “someday we’ll look back on this and laugh,” why not start laughing about it immediately? There is no need to look at something in the worst possible light now, only to put it into its proper perspective later. Put it in its proper perspective right now. Laugh. It feels good.

Stop Bitching

Our perspective determines our outlook. If we see past the 20 good things in front of us to focus on the one bad thing out there, that primes us to have bad days (and a bad life).

It’s Okay To End Class a Little Early

We teachers always shout for joy when our boring meetings and training end early. Well…to most of our students, our classes are “boring training” and ending a few minutes early gives them a little break to mentally gear up for the next classes.

Students Learn More From Me Than From My Content

When I think back to what I learned in high school (I promise you these words are not the opening lyrics to “Kodachrome”), I remember teachers and their personalities far more than content. Yeah, I remember content, but a curriculum never changed my life; people did. If you want to impact your students, change you for the better, and bring the content along with it.

Sports Aren’t Everything – But They Matter

People can get way too obsessed with sports, and since most students aren’t going to play in the NFL or NBA, every student needs to take academics seriously. However, sports provide students with important values too: learning how to stay in shape, discipline, teamwork, etc. We shouldn’t place physical activity over against academic learning. The ancient Greeks knew the importance of both.