Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Positive Mental Attitude

“I’m a driver, I’m a winner; things are gonna change I can feel it.”

- Sampled from film “Kill the Moonlight”, Song, “Loser” Beck (I thought it was George H.W. Bush too, so now the song is ruined for me.)

The other morning, I was surprised to get a sub call since it was an early release day in the elementary schools. Report cards and progress reports were coming out, so time was set aside for parent-teacher conferences. I had my own parent-teacher conference scheduled that afternoon. When I was an extended term sub several years back, I had to schedule and be the teacher for the parent-teacher conferences. Because my children are good students and not behavior problems, it’s nice to be the parent. When you have to talk to parents about children who are not handing in homework, misbehaving, and/or failing, it’s not very pleasant to be the teacher. I guess that’s the upside of being a daily substitute.

The sub job was for Physical Education. I was pleased to be working at a school that had been calling me plenty of late. I was even more pleased to work with a former colleague from my previous job. He had a whistle, which was good because I couldn’t locate mine that morning. We taught three classes together, so it was nice an easy. The kids scooted on scooters, played hospital tag, and one group began team building for something called UMPA, but I don’t remember what it stands for (Not the Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

Since I got there early, I checked out the gym. I was glad that this one had sunlight streaming through the windows. I don’t know how some teachers work in windowless rooms – I always end the day exhausted. There was a rock-climbing wall, ropes hanging from the ceiling, bleachers, basketball nets, a scoreboard, and a dividing wall, if needed. This gym wasn’t clutter with posters, but two inspirational papers were taped to the coach’s office window.

The first quote is below. I noted that Thomas Jefferson could’ve used an editor for this one, since he mixed his singular and plural nouns in the same sentence*. Still, the message is clear:

“Nothing can stop the person with the right mental attitude from achieving their goal. Nothing on earth can help the person with the wrong mental attitude.”

It reminded me of a friend who went to cheerleading camp, where they were encouraged to have a “PMA” – positive mental attitude.

The second was a faded photocopied list with a couple of typos, which I omitted, and no author was given:

The Winner is always part of the answer.

The Loser is always part of the problem.

The Winner always has a program.

The Loser always has an excuse.

The Winner says, “Let me do it for you.”

The Loser says, “That’s not my job.”

The Winner sees an answer for every problem.

The Loser sees a problem in every answer.

The Winner sees a green near every sand trap.

The Loser sees 2 or 3 sand traps near every green.

The Winner says, “It may be difficult, but it’s possible.”

The Loser says, “It may be possible, but it’s too difficult.”


This sheet reminded me a little of Goofus and Gallant from “Highlights” magazine. Just look at their names to figure out who was the good one and who was horrid. Even if you couldn’t read, you could tell Goofus was the bad seed because his face was pinched and his hair unkempt, while Gallant wore a serene expression and n’er had a hair out of place. Goofus was always selfish, while Gallant was selfless. In fact, Gallant may have been a little too nice. Goofus has three kidneys, but won't give up even one to save his ailing grandmother, while Gallant gives up both kidneys - one for his grandmother and the other, in case anyone needs it.

Just like when I taught in the Social Studies classroom at the high school, I wondered if any students ever bothered reading these papers (and if they detected the mistakes). Teachers work hard to reinforce lessons to elicit the best from a student, and to eradicate the worst. Students see quotes – handmade or from an education company, they sign contracts, they listen to teachers spew a litany of rules at the beginning of the year, and they are reproached when they fail to meet expectations. I’m sure many Loser teachers become discouraged and give up, but many Winner teachers become encouraged and keep trying. Perhaps the Loser instructor doesn’t pepper the room with inspiration, while the Winner instructor uses catchy phrases to inspire. Or not.

01/02/2010 - I just read in, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It by Ben Yagoda, "Before the eighteenth century, writers and speakers typically referred to an indefinite subject... with a they, their, or them..." (Page 184). He predicts that this will once again become the norm by the middle of this century. Let's hope so, because him or her, she or he, s/he, or the standard (and sexist) him or he muddle sentences.


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