I recently stepped down as the chairman of the secondary school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team. This was the culmination of many things, mostly the need for something to come off my overflowing plate. I was part of this team for three years and saw some tremendous strides in how we deal with problems in school and how we can recognize those who are consistently positive, respectful, responsible, and safe.
However, the number of complaints has gone up recently. I heard a number of them, being the face (and voice) of our team, and I know there were plenty that were muttered out of my earshot. You can never please everyone. Our team put together a survey to see how staff felt about different things we were trying in order to promote that positive atmosphere at school. I was amazed when I saw some responses that basically said to get rid of everything we were trying (tie-cutting for positive traits, red slips for random acts of Panther Pride, postcards home to spotlight good things, etc.).
That’s fine if you don’t like some things. However, come up with some ideas of your own. Don’t just sit back and complain; join the team and let your voice be heard. What I’ve come to discover though, is that it’s much easier to sit in the stands and throw rotten fruit than it is to get up on stage and perform.
I originally joined this Panther Pride team because I wanted to see change in our school atmosphere. I joined the calendar committee because I didn’t like how snow days were handled. I became a negotiator for our union because I was displeased with the constant antagonistic relationship with the administration and board and wanted to try and promote a positive working relationship instead. Simply put, I was sick of sitting back and waiting for change to happen; I had to try and work toward that myself.
It sure would have been easier to sit in my classroom and just teach English. I wrote a column recently regarding stress and even heard a complaint about that. However, the stress really got to me, and that’s the main reason I needed to step back from one area which was causing it.
Saturday Night Live had a character named Debbie Downer (played by Rachel Dratch) who was constantly finding the worst in every situation. “Speaking of sad things…” was often how she would start a line. This is too easy a trap to fall into. Hey, I do my share of complaining about some things, but I’m usually trying to at least make some effort to change them. Things you read about in this space are not just talk from me, but there are often things I’m doing behind the scenes as well.
Roxane Gay wrote an intriguing column recently that I read in Reader’s Digest called “Why I Stopped Whining.” She also noted our tendency to complain and said it “allows us to acknowledge the imperfect without having to take action – it lets us luxuriate in inertia.” She mentioned how seductive it is, when most of us really don’t have any intention to change these things anyway.
Ms. Gay comes up with a good conclusion. “Complaining may offer relief, but so does acceptance… There will always be something to moan about. By focusing on grievances, I risk missing out on precious, startling moments of appreciation.” That stuck with me when I read it over a month ago.
If there’s something I’m going to complain about, I’d better be prepared to take action to work toward a better solution. Otherwise, I need to step back and let it go. I need to find the positive things around me and appreciate them. After all, to bring things around full circle, that’s what the PBIS program has been about. There are things we can try to change, but even more so, we need to start to see all the good our students and staff have to offer. I may no longer be head of the team, but that will simply give me more time to put my own words into effect.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is sinecure, which means a position in which one is paid for little or no work, as in, “The new boss looked over complaints and decided to reduce the number of sinecures in his employ.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!