It happens every semester. At the end of it, our students are encouraged to fill out what’s called an SRTE– Student Rating of Teacher Effectiveness (at least I think that’s what it stands for! LOL!!!) They are asked a number of questions about how well they believe they were taught by their instructor or professor. The results from all participating students are then calculated and we are given a ranking across a number of different criteria. There are two “umbrella” type criteria– our overall effectiveness as a teacher (named “quality of instructor”) and an overall assertion of the quality of the course. Rankings are from 1 to 7, with 1 meaning, essentially, that you suck, and 7 meaning you’re the world’s greatest thing since sliced bread.
Now I’m not one to brag, but my “quality of instructor” score usually runs in the high 6’s. One semester, I even got a whole 7!
But then I’ll run through the rest of the criteria to see how I “performed” in other areas. And invariably, every semester, there is at least one student who apparently hated my guts. Because this student breezes through the SRTE and gives me “1’s” on every single criteria. Over and over, this student is saying to me, “you suck, I hate you; you suck, I hate you.”
But the rest of the students apparently LOVE me, if my overall average ends up being in the high 6’s, right? And I should be amped about that, right?
Instead, I fixate.
…On that one student who hated my guts. Who thought I was incompetent. Who thought I was the worst teacher in all of Penn State’s history.
I’m not the only one who fixates. My colleagues talk about the same fixation.
Why is this our human nature? Why do we focus on the negative and fail to celebrate the positive? What social constructs support this kind of negative thinking? It is so counter-productive. And destructive.
There IS power in positive thinking.
The executives at Disney World have this figured out. When “guests,” not “customers,” inquire with “cast members,” not “employees,” about what time the park “closes,” cast members are instructed to say, “The park is open until 8:00.” Disney uses associative language and positively connotated word choices to convey a message that is more enticing and welcoming.
I’ve learned from grief that I cannot focus on the negative because it is the negative that eats me apart. It drags me down and makes me sink.
And so I’m learning to re-frame everything.
Instead of focusing on what I’ve lost, I strive to focus on what I’ve gained. I’ve gained a tribe of individuals who have loved me and supported me throughout this whole process. I’ve gained an insatiable desire to live and to live life to its fullest. I’ve gained the capability to love even more freely– and even harder– than I did before. I don’t have anger in my heart. Grief, loss, taught me all of that. And I’m learning to step away from those negative thoughts that come in every now and again; the ones that tell me that having a happy life is just not in my cards.
I’m learning to re-frame my thinking.
G. comes from a world that is totally different than mine. I tease him by saying that his world is “classical” and mine is “metal,” using music genres to compare our differences. And previously, I was intimidated by his “classical” world. Thought that the two could never mesh. If our lives are so very different, how could it ever possibly work? I’d fixate on that. And to this point, there has been no evidence of it not being able to work, but when the mind fixates, it will search for the “proof” until it convinces itself that its found “solid evidence,” that indeed, it will not work.
Well that’s not so healthy, is it? Seems pretty counter-productive for someone who really wants to live and live life to the fullest.
So I changed my thinking. And instead of being “intimidated,” I am now seeing his classical world as an “adventure,” like going on safari or a scavenger hunt or an exploration! I hope that he also sees my “metal” world as an adventure too! This could be– and so far, has been– a really, really wild ride, like being at Disney! And that charges me. It gives me the freedom to believe that I, too, deserve to be happy in this new life. It gives me “permission” to have fun, to simply enjoy life, and to let love in and to breathe love into everything I do.
There IS power in positive thinking.
Maybe that one student who hated my guts was just confused, thinking that 1s were equivalent to the “highest ranking” and 7s were indicative of the “lowest quality.” Or maybe she/he was drunk/high/half asleep/ when filling it out. It is possible, you know. After all, they are college kids. Or maybe she/he never came to class and just doesn’t care about a stupid SRTE. Or maybe she/he is just a bully and hates everyone.