Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Choosing the Meaning That Serves You

Sticky note psychology. It works.

To continue on with things I've been learning from Tony Robbins...this.

I went to work one morning last week, sat down at my desk to figure out what I was doing that day, and thought about behavior issues and how I was going to address them. [Some examples of my students' behaviors at the moment: playing on phones and/or having headphones or earbuds in when they are supposed to be listening, watching, or working on something; asking to leave my room (bathroom, etc.) and then staying gone for 15 minutes; sitting there doing nothing when they are supposed to be working on a written assignment.]

I asked myself, How am I going to deal with these behaviors today?

All of a sudden, the obvious answer came to me, forcefully.

"It's just the meaning you attach to it." ("It" = the behavior.)

I wrote that down on a sticky note so I could see it all day. It wasn't my original idea--Tony Robbins has a teaching about life and business mastery where he says that we are all engaging in three behaviors, all the time: 1) focusing on something, 2) assigning meaning to it, and 3) deciding what to do about it. I've heard him discuss this same concept in various YouTube videos over the past few weeks, and I guess it was time for me to really understand how to apply it.

What Does This Mean?

Me assigning meaning to the behavior meant the ball was in my court, because I have control over how I choose to interpret the classroom behaviors I observe.

Some students play on their phones a lot, and some of them keep doing it even after I've asked them to put their phone away. Meaning? I'm a terrible teacher? They don't respect me? They aren't interested in my class? My class is a boring, unimportant task they are forced to endure?

If it's just the meaning I attach to it, then I can choose the meaning I attach. All right. Then I will choose a meaning that serves me. I wrote that down on the sticky note.

Choosing a Meaning That Serves Me

If I'm choosing a meaning that serves my goal of keeping my positive energy flowing as I'm teaching, I need to choose well. I decided to attach this meaning to to behavior of them playing on their phones during the lesson:

Phones and the worlds within them are fun and interesting, and they give you a brain/energy break from the mundane, long school day. You get attention from friends, you get entertained, and you can relax and just enjoy yourself. Even I feel this way about my phone, so I can understand the addiction. I want to play on my phone too. Occasionally I check my phone during long meetings and trainings, when I should be engaged instead. It doesn't mean the presenter is terrible or I don't value the learning or disrespect the person leading the meeting.

Therefore, assuming that the 4 or 5 students per class that I have to remind to put up their phones pretty much daily, sometimes two or three times per class each, are being disrespectful, hate my class, and hate me, is almost guaranteed to be false.

Case in point: one girl that I have to constantly ask to put up her phone, and who rolls her eyes when I do so, also cheerfully and eagerly greets me first when I pass her in the hallway or see her in the commons between classes.

Which brings up a follow-up meaning I can choose concerning phones: students who roll their eyes or scowl when I ask them to put up their phones do not necessarily hate me. They just haven't been taught or don't care to hide their in-the-moment emotions at being corrected or caught doing something off-task.

I encourage you to experiment with these concepts in class:
  1. Realize that how behavior affects you is simply a product of the meaning you attach to it.
  2. Understand that YOU choose the meaning.
  3. Choose a meaning that serves you in your goals. Set aside your judgment of whether what they are doing is "right" or "wrong," for your own sake.
And please let me know how it goes! Teaching is always a journey of trial and error, and we're all in this together. :-)

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