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Look For What You Like

Look For What You Like

Written by Rebecca Riggs

I stood in front of my seventh period class of around twenty tenth grade boys and about five tenth grade girls, waiting to get the students’ attention. I said “let’s get in one conversation” more than once. I stopped in the middle of my sentence as I was interrupted. I physically stepped back. However, my signals were not being read. In one corner, a student was throwing a tennis ball that I had asked him to leave in his backpack. On another side of the room, a student was removing my Texas flag from its holder and waving it frantically. It was chaos, and I was ready to burst. I had been having problems since the beginning of the year, and nothing I did seemed to work. When it all became too much, I yelled at my students.

That was in my first year of teaching. I had always promised myself that I would never raise my voice at my students, but there I was yelling at them to sit down and be quiet. I was ashamed of myself, but I just did not know what else to do.

Upon reflection, I see that I was not loyal to my outcome. At our most recent Holdsworth visit, Christina Harbridge spoke to us about “[understanding] and [leveraging our] own personal operating system when dealing with others who may or may not be rational” ( She taught us how to not let someone “hijack our physiology” when they are being irrational or we just do not get along with that person, and she taught us to leverage our stories in order to effectively communicate. Out of all the things Christina taught us, the thing that stuck with me the most is “staying loyal to your outcome.” This means that, regardless of how anyone is acting, you must remember your ultimate goal that you are striving for and only do things that further that goal. For example, it means that you learn to work with an ex-spouse to stay loyal to the outcome of raising a healthy, well-adjusted child. For me, I want to stay loyal to the outcome of creating success for students. 

In my case, it means that I have to stay loyal to creating a safe and successful learning environment for my students to thrive. I realize now that I did not stay loyal to my outcome in my first year of teaching. I was too inward-focused, too consumed by the “injustice” of students disrespecting me that I forgot that, above all, I needed to maintain a safe environment and assure that my students were able to learn well in that space. These days, I ironically have another seventh period with way more boys than girls, with lots of athletes, and with very chaotic times. Because of what Christina taught us, I was able to calmly take a deep breath and slowly walk around my room, asking each student individually to please pause and listen to what I was trying to say. As I did, I used one of the tools that Christina gave us to learn how to not be “hijacked’ when others are upsetting you: look for what you like. I looked at my most rambunctious, center-stage-loving student, and I thought to myself, “I love his kind smile and that he ultimately has a really good heart.” I looked at the student who cannot help but blurt things out when I am in the middle of a sentence and told myself, “Remember when he hugged you after you lost your family pet? I like when he has moments of empathy.” When doing this, my heart stopped racing, my body stopped being flooded with fight or flight instinct, and I was able to stay loyal to my outcome.

Think about the person/people who tend to “hijack” your physiology and take over your emotions. What is one thing you like about them? Challenge yourself to think about that one thing before entering a meeting or calling them on the phone. Stay loyal to your outcome.


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