I'm reading a book by Todd Whitaker called What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things that Matter Most. Our staff is reading it for a professional development book study. Like most books that give advice to teachers, it all seems obvious, but I am enjoying it. It's well-written, and unlike many would-be gurus in education, Whitaker chooses straight talk over jargon. His platform is credible as well. Teachers aren't interested in education books by academics who have never taught outside the hallowed halls of a university. Whitaker speaks from his experience in the trenches.
I chose to blog about the book because its major tenet can be applied to my writing as well. Whitaker focuses on 14 specific points, but they all come back to the same idea. The only thing teachers really control is our own actions. We can't control which students come into our classroom, what skills they bring or lack, what parents they have, the resources we get, the funding or lack thereof, who we work with, how many students we get at a time, etc, etc, etc. We can control our attitude, our effort, and our interactions. Whitaker tells teachers to take responsibility for those things, and more often than not we'll be successful. At the very least, we will feel better.
Having read all the brouhaha last week regarding #agentfail, it seems to me writers are in much the same boat. We don't control anything in the publishing process beyond our effort, our attitude, and our interactions. I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Shaking your fist at the heavens (or anonymously at literary agents) will not get you published. Be better. Work harder. Hone your craft, and for Pete's sake, treat people with respect. As Whitaker says in his book, we may have a thousand positive interactions with a person, but it is the one negative one we will remember.
I know that last statement sounds trite and cliched, but my own experience in the classroom tells me it's true. Shoot...my experience in life tells me it's true. I'm no PollyAnna. I have my fair share of rejection letters, but I know all I can control is my effort, my attitude, and my interactions. Acknowledging that is liberating. It puts me in the driver's seat.