Tame the Brain Rats

In 2017 I posted an article called “Emotional Anorexia.”  https://learningomnivores.com/emotional-anorexia/  In schools, adults do not get a lot of positive feedback. Leaders get even less. I related a story of a wonderful teacher who I recognized at a faculty meeting.  The next morning she showed up at my office door almost in tears.  I asked, what’s the matter.  She responded that no principal had told her that she was a good teacher and publicly stated that.

Being a new to the school I had asked several people, including my administrative assistant, ‘who was the best writer in the school?’  Everyone said, “Beth.” Unfortunately, hardly anyone was telling Beth. My point of the article was that we need to honor our own and say ‘thank you’ more for what our colleagues do on a daily basis to help each other and our students.

Based on some of my reading, I know that a negative comment has greater impact than positive.  In fact, Barbara Fredrickson, ‘Positivity’ say we need a three to one ratio to stay even.  John Gottman, ‘Why Marriages Fail and Succeed.’ Says it needs to be five to one. In schools there tends to be more negatives coming from students, parents, colleagues, and community. I have seen my colleagues turn the negatives into negative self-assessment.  As a matter of fact, the best teachers and support staff are the harshest critics of their own behavior.

Barbara McAfee is a singer, songwriter, leadership and organizational consultant who has presented at two of our Learning Omnivore workshops.  Last August, while teaching us about using our voice to increase the impact of our message, she included singing many of her own songs.  One of those songs was Brain Rats.  I have included a link so you can watch her perform. The  lyrics are included below.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOuzuMx9wP4&t=89s

I want to endorse her work because Barbara has facilitated staff meetings, did an opening of school, staff leadership teams, student leadership camps, district team building, etc.  She always gets very positive reviews making a positive contribution to the schools and districts where I have worked.  Contact her at barbara@barbaramcafee.com.

We scare ourselves in many ways.  I have written several times about Jon Saphier’s work.  His book, High Expectations Teaching, outlines fifty ways to help kids know they are smart.  https://learningomnivores.com/what-were-reading/high-expectations-teaching/  Helping kids become more efficacious is important.  Equally important is assisting staff to know they are valuable and are models of efficacy for kids.  Staff members who know they make a difference, have greater repertoire, and implement multiple strategies get better results with students.

So, here is my message. “Stop the inner terrorism.” This is a quote by Angeles Arrien at one of her workshops that has stayed with me for over twenty years.  Although Angeles has passed, her influence has been extremely valuable to me. See my book summary of one of her books at https://learningomnivores.com/what-were-reading/four-fold-way/  Too often, me included, get down and do not feel that we are making a difference.  Actually, Andy Hargreaves identified a major cause of burnout is working hard and not seeing results.

Here are a few more possible actions to consider:

  • Have a friend who you can share thoughts with. My definition of a friend is someone who is glad to see me and has no plan for my immediate improvement.
  • Have a hobby, avocation, or outside interests that you enjoy
  • Commit to physical exercise at whatever level possible
  • Journal, prayer, or meditation has been shown to have a positive impact
  • Be in community. Socialization is important for everyone
  • Read things about education and/or outside education. I saw a quote last week that said, ‘Dinosaurs didn’t read. How did that work out for them?’  I know it is a joke but I got the point
  • Laughing has been said to be internal jogging.  I started taking improv classes.  Yes, it was scary AND really helpful.
  • Get a coach. Of course check out the coaching philosophy and fit for you.
  • Ask others how they deal with negativity, stress, or other crises.

I know there are other ways to reduce and stop inner terrorism. We can’t wait for the public, government, or business to provide positive feedback. Find something that works for you.  Tell people how important or valuable they are.  You and they will both feel better..  We can start where we are and spread the positive actions to fight Brain Rats.  You deserve it.

Brain Rats
By Barbara McAfee  © Big Bug Music

Brain rats, I’ve got brain rats
A pestilential blight upon my mind!

Brain rats are those wicked thoughts that prove my every flaw
And every hopeful notion gives them something new to gnaw
I hear them chewing in the night and on and off all day
They’ve really got my number — oh, the awful stuff they say!…Chorus

My mother says she loves me, but no doubt she’s telling lies
And my friends are all just enemies in ingenious disguise
There’s no one to be trusted – and that’s including me
The best approach to human beings is fierce misanthropy…Chorus

I need a lot more money than I’ll ever live to earn
And late at night I count my debts as I fret and toss and turn
I’m one step from the poorhouse. I can’t make it on my own.
I’ll be just like that match girl dying cold and all alone.

They torture with such cunning like little Marquises de Sade
And wreak unstinting havoc beneath my cool facade
They tell me I’m worse than everyone
My problems can’t be solved
And I’m the piece of crap around which this whole world revolves….Chorus


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