When you walk into a school, you can feel the energy. In USD 113 buildings, I hope this is positive energy! We strive to establish positive learning climates in our buildings. I know that when I served as a high school principal, creating and maintaining a positive atmosphere was always a goal and a source of pride.
In my opinion, the issue of masking has become divisive – especially with adults. This divisiveness can impact the positive atmosphere we are working to establish to provide a quality education. One strategy that we can implement in working with others is that of positive intent. This is more of a mindset than it is an action, and it is definitely not isolated to schools.
Assuming positive intent means that you interact with others with the belief that they have good intentions. This does not necessarily come naturally. Author and businessman Steven Covey observed that a challenge people face in maintaining positivity about others is that, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”
For all of us, but especially educators, it is extremely important to maintain an attitude of positive intent. They are continually working with students, fellow educators, parents, politicians, etc. As we go about doing our work, there is going to be conflict. How we handle conflict is representative of our character. In order to understand others’ perceptions, it is important to listen with an open mind.
Fortune magazine attributes the following to Indra Nooyi, former Chairperson of PepsiCo:
“My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From him I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed… You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.’ So “assume positive intent” has been a huge piece of advice for me.”
As we work with others, especially as we are faced with change, it is important to perceive others as having positive intent. When it comes to the issue of masking in our schools and our communities, it is vital to make a conscious effort to consider the positive intentions of others. For our children, we have a common interest: the best educational experience possible for our kids.