Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Power of Noticing

This little note completely changed my perspective.

I'll be honest with you guys, when this school year started I was already exhausted from the two weeks of training plus the summer's farm adventures gone wrong.

I was not in the mood for teaching five back-to-back classes full of freshmen, sprinkled with a few done-with-freshmen upperclassmen. Freshmen energy + volume level = a full 11, while my energy and volume level = -2.

Corralling them enough to get a lesson taught completely drained me of all energy by the end of each day for the first two weeks of school, and my attitude wasn't the greatest as I began each new day, which meant I started falling into a downward spiral that fed on itself.

Then, for some strange reason, I picked up an old book I've had for years and never completely read--Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins. Yes, Unlimited Power, I told myself half-jokingly. That is exactly what I need, if it exists.

Well, Tony Robbins definitely believes it exists, and I've been a closet fan of his for years just based on the few tidbits of information I knew about him, brief YouTube videos of his interviews and speeches, and what little bits I had read from Unlimited Power.

There is much more I could say (and probably will get around to it) about how spending two weekends immersing myself in Tony Robbins' teachings started turning things around dramatically for me, but right now I'll just share this particular revelation, because it's simple and yet powerful.

I was listening to an audio of Tony on YouTube where he had the audience look around and shout out everything they saw that was brown. Then he said, "Close your eyes. Okay, now, shout out everything in the room that's red." There was no shouting. He said, "Okay, now open your eyes and look around--shout out everything you see that's red." The shouting resumed, and when he got their attention again, he said, "Are you surprised by how many things around you are red, that you couldn't recall at all when you had your eyes closed? Why? What happened?"

The answer of course, was that they were focused on everything brown before he said "close your eyes."

This hit me like a ton of bricks. What was I focused on during class? The one or two (or three, four, or five) students who were off task, distracting others and me, being loud, wandering around the room, yelling out and interrupting, etc. There was a sea of other students out there, NOT doing those things.

I scribbled the note in the photo above the next morning when I got to class. It was a Monday, usually my worst teaching day in terms of energy level, enthusiasm, and resolve. I planned to notice on purpose every time I saw a student doing one of the things on the note, and make a little tick mark beside that action, so I could see in real time how often the things I WANTED to see were happening.

Then it Got Interesting...

The first kid of the day walked in, a girl in my first Spanish 1 class. "Hola, Ms. Waltman...¿Cómo estás?" she called out cheerfully, before I had a chance to greet her.

I looked down at my note. There were too many things to check off. She was showing growth, risk taking, joy, learning...heck, all of the things on the note. The next student immediately walked in and struck up a conversation with me about my weekend, so I asked her about hers, and we had a great conversation about California, dance, Spanish class, and other things. On my note, that was positive behavior, joy, engagement, and respectfulness.

Before I could make the tick marks, the next kid came in, and the next. I noticed everything on my note, for the entire class. Then I noticed everything on my note, constantly, for the entire day.

And then I laughed at myself that I hadn't made a single tick mark, because it was impossible to keep up. I left that day feeling better than I had in weeks.

Are the negative behaviors in your classes capturing your entire focus, to the point you can't see anything else? I challenge you to make a note. Lay it on your desk. Try to make tick marks as you notice the behaviors on the note. And then please let me know how it went in the comments below, because I am really curious. :-)

Happy Tuesday...


  1. I enjoyed reading this, Jalen. It helped to put me in a more positive mindset when I really don't wanna be. Griping and negative energy just hurts everyone.

    1. Thanks, Carrie! I fall into negativity pretty easily at times, especially self-criticism, so I know what you mean. :)

  2. Great blog. Thanks for the reminder of being positive.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I still need this reminder pretty much daily right now. :)

    2. Jalen, this was a perfect read as I get ready to go back to a group of middle schoolers that I had trouble 'enjoying' last year. Thank you.

    3. Hi thekingschild, I am so glad it helped. I taught middle school for two years and whoa nelly. I could not hang with that high energy!!! And the mouthing off, my lord. I feel for you. :)


Announcing My Online, On-Demand Spanish 1 Course!

Click ↑ to go to my new YouTube Channel! It's here! I'm teaching my "Jalen Waltman"  standards-based high school Spanish 1...