In my third year of my school counseling career, a student asked me “What’s wrong with you Mrs. Atkins? You used to smile.” Wow, out of the mouths of babes, right? The daily grind of our work can start to grind down the positivity that brought us into this helping career in the first place. I know that not only had my attitude suffered but so did my relationships with students.
Keep a Smile File
As counselors, we usually see kids when they are struggling. We work hard with them and then send them on their way to do amazing things. Most of the time, we don’t see these amazing things! No news is usually good news in the school counseling world and that can get you down. When you receive notes, emails, drawings, or other positive news – keep them! I even write things down that didn’t come to me in written form and add it to the file. When I feel the negativity bringing me down, I use my smile file to step out of the negative.
Wait, you say, I thought we were being positive?! Nothing shows your good work like some hard data to show that you are making a difference. When I was able to say that 60% of students passed our state test after our academic achievement group when 0% of the targeted students passed last year – that felt positive. If I hadn’t collected the data, I might have only heard about the kids that weren’t improving and never seen the actual scope of the hard work.
Find Your People
Our jobs are hard. Some days, they are really hard. On a recent post, I had a reader say “find your people.” What great advice! At one school where I worked, the school secretary was like my second mama. She took care of me when I was not feeling well, when I had a rough day, or when I needed a place to vent (without breaking confidentiality). At the same school, we honored the “work hard, play hard” philosophy and scheduled ultimate frisbee games, pick up basketball, and dinners out that all staff was invited to. When you find coworkers that you like and know as real humans, it’s easier to step out of negativity.
Step Out *Literally*
I’m all for venting. Sometimes venting helps you to take a deep breath and move on to the positive. However, perpetual venting will bring you down. When you’re in the copy room, break room, or hallway and people start to gripe, decide if this is helping you to connect and laugh it off or if you need to *literally* step out of the room. School staff is used to people running around all day and you can easily make an excuse that you need to go finish up another item. Don’t let others bring you down.
Get Help if You Need It
If you are struggling with negativity to the point of burn out (been there) – seek help. If you’ve never been to a counselor or therapist, I truly believe seeing one will make you a better school counselor overall.
How do you step out of negativity?
I believe that it is a choice you can make each and every day. Check out this post about self-care for some other ideas.