Top Ten Attitudes to Take Back to School This Year


This list is for everyone. Teachers, school leaders, coaches, parents, community members, students… basically anyone who has ever known, loved or been a kid. If that’s you, read on. Wherever you are heading this September, I recommend you pack these attitudes in your backpack/briefcase/Louis Vuitton/lunchbox. And I suggest packing them along side your self-confidence (they’re already good friends). These ten will serve you well. Just remember to share them at lunchtime.

  1. Determination – Like the little seed, covered in cold, wet earth, we must be determined. We must be determined to face another year, fewer resources, inevitable challenges and the most important work in the world: shining the light for young people to grow and blossom into their own individual greatness. Yes, we know this is our job, but we must be determined to do it no matter what comes our way.
  2. Optimism – There’s no room for pessimism in school. Our students sometimes come to us pessimistic about life, anxious about their struggles or doubting that their science experiment will work. It is quite literally our job to be optimistic no matter what happens around us. No matter what our students or our school climate throws at us each day. As the leaders, the role models and the teachers, we must teach that being optimistic about abilities, outcomes and possibilities is the way our students will be better equipped for life when they face it on their own.
  3. Curiosity – What is inquiry if not curiosity? We teach methods and procedures of inquiry but if it not accompanied by curiosity, inquiry runs the danger of being just a worksheet. But a child’s – and any learner’s – natural curiosity is essential to making inquiry genuine. So ask yourself why you would want to know more about something before asking a student to be curious and once you do, your methods are bound to be deeper, more genuine and down-right fun. Need a jump start?Remember back to when you were a kid: Remember that time you formed a new way of surviving in the wilderness while playing near a stream with your friends? How about the time you figured out how to make the sheets stay up on your cushion fort in the living room.You were curious. You looked for solutions and you found them.

  4. Skepticism – Learn to question everything. Skepticism is NOT pessimism. At all. It is an unwillingness to take everything at face value. This is hard for a non-skeptic to admit, but we need to learn to question and dig deeper if only to learn what is under the surface of that answer, opinion, solution, etc. The really valuable insight and understanding comes from the questions you ask in the name of skepticism, even if all it does is strengthen your understanding of the reason an answer exists for something. Isn’t that what true knowledge is anyway?
  5. Courage – My friend just posted about her Facebook feed on the last day before school. She remarked at how she is seeing all sorts of smiling, happy faces on kids who are excited to put on their new outfits and head back to school tomorrow. What was her message? She didn’t see any posts or photos of the kids who are scared, crying and full of anxiety about going back to school. The kids who have learning disabilities, emotional battles and experience bullying. It is for all of those kids that I encourage all of us educators, teachers, parents and anyone who loves a kid to have courage because we have kids who need it. We can share ours with them through a hug or by facing our own fears with courage. That energy can sometimes be enough to bring to your school – you don’t even need to talk about how you were courageous, just be the essence of courageous. The wonderful thing about experiencing courage – facing and moving through your own fears? It gives you a level of compassion and understanding when you are working with a child or children who need to learn how to be courageous. And isn’t that a teacher’s job, really… to live by example?
  6. Humor – Oh my gosh, just take a deep breath and exhale. See how serious things can get even in a short list of attitudes? That’s why we need humor (orhuumah, if you’re from my neck of the woods) There is so much pressure everywhere in education, so let’s do everything we can to incorporate good old fashioned laughter and humor into our day. Have a source of on-the-spot funny besides George Takei? If so, share the happy and post it in the comments.
  7. Hope – I have a little piece of sculptural art made of soft metal wire bent and folded to form the word “hope.” It teeters ever so precariously on its round-bottom “p.” Occasionally someone picks it up, plays with it and then perches it back on the shelf facing down hill. It bothers me when I see it with the letters going down hill, the “h” up in the air, teetering on the “p” with the “e” resting down on the shelf. I always have to fix it because the message I see when it is like that is that hope can’t go down. Hope goes up. Visually, it looks better going upward and for a while I wondered if I was developing OCD. I wasn’t. I have been seeing this message of hope going up for so long that it has subliminally trained me to understand more about hope. And that HOPE GOES UP. Hope holds us when we are running out of evidence that things are going to work out or get better. Even in our most challenging moments we can hold onto the hope that tomorrow will be better, and based on my own non-scientific data, it usually is.
  8. Perseverance – Never give up. I need to get wire art that says persevere. At times, we humans can get close to giving up but I think the teachers among us tend to persevere more than the average Joe. Our students want to give up a lot. They throw their hands up and exclaim that they give up when they don’t know an answer, when they don’t understand the instructions, when the science project flops or when they get a test score they don’t think they deserved. Giving up is the disease teachers heal all the time. We are pep talkers, coaches, cheerleaders, magicians, even Pollyannas if we need to be. We have to persevere because we need to make sure that our students persevere, even through the hardest of times (see also: hope). So, pack your perseverance because over the next ten months you’re going to need a lot of it – and just a little of it might be for you.
  9. Tenacity – I like this word because it kind of encompasses the most superhero-y words I’ve already listed. You can say you have courage or that you will persevere but there is something almost soft about those qualities. Not tenacity. Tenacity has sass. It kind of suggests, “you bet your ass I’m going to.” It also has the theme to Rocky playing in its smart, tough, survior-y backdrop. If we can teach our kids tenacity, I feel like we’ve won. When our kids can face and overcome things – and our kids face a lot – we are teaching them one of the most valuable skills they need in life. We can teach them that failing doesn’t mean being a failure. Remind your kids how strong they have been in the past when they’re struggling. Teach them about tenacity. And maybe watch Rocky IV if you need a reminder of tenacity yourself.
  10. Spontaneity – You can’t be spontaneous without having fun. Think about it. Remember the last time you just decided on a whim to do something? It was something stimulating, something fun, something out of the ordinary, wasn’t it? You didn’t decide spontaneously to make yourself unhappy. In an academic environment that continues to be more stressful, more tense, more beholden to performance, standards and stamina (ugh), you (and your kids!) will benefit from a little spontaneity!
Teachers, parents, people who were ever kids: You might agree that this list can translate well to your students and kiddos. If you agree, I encourage you to share it – and maybe even post it in your classroom. And remember, HOPE GOES UP.