Are you part of the solution or part of the problem? I have been asked and have asked that question many times in my life, both as a supervisor and a subordinate. Looking back at different times in my life – realistically I have been both – either part of the problem and part of the solution.
In the military I was trained or taught (had it hammered into me by a certain Lieutenant – that I respect now more than I care to admit) that in order to whine or complain about something that I needed to:
  1. Know what I am complaining about and have the background about it (in other words do some research)
  2. Determine if my perception of the issue is accurate or merely an emotional response.
  3. Is the issue actually my problem?
  4. What are my options when it comes to this issue?
  5. What probably would happen if I do not implement or follow what I am complaining about?
  6. What probably will happen if I do implement or follow what I am complaining about?
  7. What is the possible worst case scenario for 5 & 6 above?
  8. What is the best case scenario for 5 & 6 above?
  9. Will my actions have any immediate positive or negative affects?
  10. Will my actions have any long-term positive or negative affects?
  11. Determine the level that any potential change would occur (is it local, regional, state-wide, national)
  12. Think about what my solution to the problem would be, is it any better than what I am complaining about? Is it realistic? What are the steps that would be involved in implementing my solution?
  13. Would my efforts realistically change anything for the better or am I simply tilting at windmills?
If after I go through this decision-tree type process, if I can see that the problem is not going to be solved at my level or a level that I can influence, then continuing to whine and complain about it serves no purpose other than to stress me out, so I usually have a few options:
  • I need to change my perception of what I consider a problem.
  • Let it become someone else’s problem – pass the buck.
  • Let it go and move on – make the best of the hand you have been dealt.

In reality it is not that simplistic, I usually still think it is an issue, but once have gone through the above process it is easier to accept that something is beyond my ability to change or influence. Once I have accepted that I can’t change something, I try to look at ways that I can use it to my advantage or in ways that others didn’t think of that will make it more positive to me or to those it affects. Thinking outside of the box, does have its advantages sometimes.

Often even that didn’t and doesn’t always work, there are times when you just have to “shut up”, “suck it up” and stop bitching about things you can’t change and do what is expected from you even if you don’t like it or agree with it.
If you can’t do this then you really have to look at what you are doing and decide if it is time for a change of some kind in your life.
Since I have entered the teaching profession and the Edu-verse on the internet, I have read much whining and complaining about the variety of “ills” that negatively affect teachers, back in November I wrote a blog about Teachers We are Not Powerless where I discussed my thoughts on many of these issues.
From my perspective what has been missing in the Edu-verse conversations are realistic solutions that we can adopt and actually use in our classrooms:
  • without getting or needing permission from “on high” or
  • how to work successfully and positively within the limitations that have and will be imposed in our schools.
We need to find – the golden opportunities that have been presented to us with the various rules, regulations, provisions, laws, etc. that we don’t like or agree with, but still have to live with. They are there, we just have to find them and share our successes with those of us have considered only the negative to these ills previously.
If you believe that you can change the “ills” that you perceive, then I encourage you to fight the good fight and try to make a difference with your leadership.
Yes I know it feels great to whine and complain at times and we all do it. However, continuing to do for years on end about the same subjects over and over again is not productive. If you are simply whining and complaining with no realistic alternative solutions – stop – the negativity is hurting teaching and our students more than helping. So where are you – are you part of the problem or part of the solution? It is your choice – choose.
Now if I could only turn lead into gold…damn where did I put my Philosopher’s Stone?
Be positive whenever possible and remember it is about the students not the adults, so do the right things for the right reasons.

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