Attitude Adjustment by the Hour

August 17, 2020 - 3 minute read


Dr. Kent Schlichtemeier Teaching Students

Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was at home with his mother, father, brother, and wife when they heard a loud rap at their front door. On that tragic day in 1942 during WWII, the intrusion meant only one thing for this Jewish family. Frankl and his family members were transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp and later to Auschwitz to await their fate. Viktor survived three years in the sadistic camps, eventually going on to live to the age of 92, while the rest of his family died in captivity. Frankl describes his experiences and lessons learned in the poignant book titled Man’s Search for Meaning (1959). A turning point for Viktor in his hellish environment was the day when he was being interrogated under a bright light; he had been stripped naked, his head shaved, all worldly possessions confiscated – that he realized that no matter what the Nazis did to him, they could not touch his ATTITUDE. His attitude, or outlook on life, was his decision that he could control on a daily basis.

Frankl teaches us that one’s attitude is not dependent on environmental factors, as he found a way to see the positives in life even living in Auschwitz. Scientists confirm that there is also nothing genetic about one’s attitude. Each person’s attitude is a decision that is consciously made. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning, and our feet hit the floor, we must daily wrestle with our attitude.

As a teacher in the classroom or leader within any organization, our attitude realistically must be intentionally adjusted frequently - by the hour. This is an important adjustment to make, since leaders set the tone for those they are called to lead. It is imperative to be cognizant of one’s attitude throughout the day, as many eyes are watching and lives are being affected.

There are three truisms about attitude worth considering by teachers and school administrators. First, attitudes are controllable. If you are a positive person – it is your choice. Conversely, if you are a negative person – it is your choice. The world is full of negative people. Today’s classrooms are filled with students who live in caustic homes and societal environments. It is imperative for teachers and administrators to understand that part of their job description is to convey a refreshing positive outlook on life – which only they can control.

Second, attitudes are easily assessed. Researchers assert that a person has seven seconds to make a positive first impression. Since you never have a second opportunity to make a first impression, you must take advantage of your scant time given. A person’s attitude is a big part of that first impression. You can sense within seconds how a person feels towards another individual, group, or situation. A room full of students can quickly ascertain their teacher’s attitude towards them as people and the subject matter being taught. In the same way, individual faculty and staff members can easily decipher how much they are valued and appreciated by the attitude conveyed to them by their school leader.

Finally, attitudes are highly contagious. It is amazing how who we hang around with rubs off on us as we live our lives. It is hard not to become more enthusiastic and hopeful when associating with people who convey a positive outlook on life. Conversely, negativity can spread like a malignant virus in a group. The apostle Paul, writes very succinctly in I Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be misled, bad company corrupts good character.” A familiar adage that should cause all leaders to take regular inventory of one’s outlook on life is: “Attitudes are contagious – is yours worth catching?”

As a teacher in today’s classroom or an administrator leading a school, it is critical to recognize that we are responsible for our attitudes. We cannot be dependent on having a perfect set of students, faculty members, or school board representatives. We must reconcile our attitude regularly. We read a noble goal for our lives in Philippians 2:5: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” It doesn’t get any better than that! Leaders in education today are carefully observed and scrutinized by students, parents, and colleagues. We have a wonderful opportunity to display our affinity for Jesus Christ through our outlook on life – which is why it is imperative to intentionally adjust our attitude by the hour.

Dr. Kent Schlichtemeier is the Dean of the School of Education at Concordia University Irvine.

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