Scott Taylor gave an outstanding keynote address this morning, using a mix of humor, entertainment, and experiences to share the importance of building strong relationships and maintaining positivity in schools. Principal Taylor shared stories from his own experience, and it’s clear that Principal Taylor practices what he preaches. Every day, he roams the halls of his school to spread positivity, and goes out of his way to let students know he cares. He checks in to every class, every day. He humorously wears 100 ties on the 100th day of class. And on Fridays, “Mr. T” raps about character. “I tell you what,” he said, after sharing an illustrative rap with this mornings audience, “you can teach a lot about character when you talk fast and rap!.”
Why is Scott Taylor taking such a deliberate approach to optimism at his school? It’s because for Scott Taylor, optimism isn’t negotiable. It’s critical.
This morning, during Principal Taylor’s entertaining - and touching - keynote, he called on teachers everywhere to confront the culture of negativity that’s pervasive in schools today. This culture, he said, can be a significant damper to a successful education, and the way to confront negativity begins with changing the culture amongst teachers themselves. “Happy adults leads to happy students,” he said.
Also, the attitude in classrooms must change, and this starts with a teachers attitude toward their students. Mr. Taylor told the story of a study conducted in Baltimore, where student researchers analyzed several hundred elementary school students and wrote up predictions on the life-prospects of each one. Every single student received a report that said they had very low chances of success.
Twenty years later, another group went back to see whether those life-prospect predictions came to fruition. Astonishingly, the researchers found the majority of the students were vastly outperforming the average on life accomplishments. In interviews with the students, one specific teacher was frequently referenced as having had a life-changing impact on the direction of these students lives. The researchers tracked down the now-aged, but still sharp teacher. “How did you turn around the fortunes of these students?”, they asked. “It’s really very simple,” she said. “I loved them.”
The dramatic impact a teacher can make by taking a little time to impart positivity into the lives of their students is universally acknowledged, but maintaining a culture of positivity requires vigilance. In fact, maintaining an attitude of positivity in the classroom and amongst the teaching staff is so critical, Taylor said, that “the truth is, you can’t have one negative person on your staff.”
So how can you transform the culture at your school? Start by changing your perspective. Principal Taylor shared a story to illustrate the point.
“Three men are working in a quarry, and a gentlemen comes up and asks them what it is exactly they do for a living. The first said, ‘I’m a stone chipper.’ The second said, ‘I make marble blocks.’ The third said, ‘I build cathedrals.’”
How about you? Do you see yourself as a cathedral builder?