“Teachers who are stressed, unhappy, and unsupported by their peers are more inclined to treat their students with disrespect.”[i]

At Pace we know, through our understanding of trauma, that we are sponges for our peer’s emotional states, whether we want to be or not.  And as we all know, children are even “spongier” than adults. They absorb our energy – whether positive or negative.  How we talk to each other creates a “climate” that can be pleasant and respectful or can be clique-ish and unfriendly.

In a recent article in Educational Leadership: Respect-Where Do We Start?, Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, makes a strong case that the adult culture of a school is key to developing respectful students.  But as simple as this insight sounds, it’s not easy to change the culture of any group of adults, and even harder to change a culture where the adults are constantly under pressure to interact positively with children.  Their needs and behaviors can overwhelm even the most cheerful disposition.

Why is it so hard for people to stay positive?  Ms. Beaudoin, who uses brain research to make her point, says that “It’s easy for people to dwell on negative affective states because, according to neuroscientists, there are more neural networks in the brain associated with negative affect than with positive affect (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001); some scientists even speculate that these may be in the ratio of 5 to 1.”[ii]

Her suggestion: start by evaluating the conversation in the lunchroom.  Are people talking about their problems?  Are they complaining to each other or engaging in “one-ups-man-ship” about the latest student horror story?  Are they talking about the work or are they talking about each other’s interests and lives? »Read More