Growing out of defaulting to negative

Anyone who knows me would say I’m not exactly the most positive person in the world! But, I’ve been thinking about positivity and negativity a lot recently, and particularly this quote:

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It has become increasingly obvious that there is a negative default for many people who work in schools. And, that this negative default builds up to a disproportionate sense of entitlement and readiness just to be critical of everything.

So, for example, an improvement is made to an aspect of the school – say, the playground – and then, as soon as that improvement is complete people forget what it was like before and then complain about the improvement. They pick faults in it or moan about “not being consulted”. In short, they will find something to complain about. Indeed, it is impost impossible to interact with some people without some complaining happening!

Now, of course, this negative energy is really debilitating. But, more worryingly, it reveals a lack of memory… or a lack of willingness to remember. This immediately reduces our ability to have perspective. Perspective doesn’t just come from going somewhere else and seeing things differently because of a change of location, or meeting a different person and seeing things differently through them. Perspective also comes through time, and schools’ relationship with time is often so abusive that we may well have lost our ability to achieve this.

How often do we ignore all of our success and focus purely on our failures? How often do we ignore our “Done List” because we’re so obsessed with our “To Do List”? How often do we forget to congratulate ourselves for our achievements because we’re blinded by our goals? How often do we allow someone’s negativity to infect everybody else’s positivity? How often do we focus our emotional energy on responding to negativity and leave ourselves too depleted for the positive energy?

I’d like to see a movement towards living by the quote above and away from the gravitational pull of negativity and negative people. Schools should be positive places full of positive people – I don’t mean that in a trite, naive or ignorant way – but positive in a way that still has substance. You can sense  the overriding air of positivity very strongly when positive people dominate, and great things happen as a result. You can equally sense the air of negativity very strongly when negative people dominate, and the potential for great things to happen slips down the nearest drain.


  1. rupaljos

    I think sometimes the problem is that negative people are unaware that they are being negative, as you say it’s their default setting. They are also unconscious of the impact of their words on other people, as like a dump truck they start to off-load on to others in an attempt to make themselves feel better. We have all had days where we have been negative and it’s ok to be able to express it and then move on. On the other extreme, being too positive can be seen as being a bit weird/fake. However, there have been teachers I have worked with in various schools with this negative attitude that just suck you up into their vortex of doom and gloom. You try and help these people by offering a possible solution, but they’ll find a problem with each solution. Eventually you just stop trying and start to avoid them and their drama. It’s almost as if they don’t want a solution as they’ll have nothing to be negative about!

    • sherrattsam

      I think you’re right… the minute solutions start being discussed, people switch off, probably because it takes more effort to think of solutions than to complain about all the problems – which are usually pretty obvious to everyone!

      Also, people who see and suggest solutions usually end up with more work.

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  3. David H

    A very insightful article.

    I was once counseled to speak to myself the way I would speak to my students. The change was immense.

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