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Don’t Pay Attention

by Professor Joe Martin

Do you realize we only hear what we pay attention to? I know you're probably saying, "Duh, no kidding." But don't take this simple truth for granted. See, the real question is "What are you paying attention to?" Allow me to explain...

If you ask the average person in education (or any Jane or John Doe on the street), "What do you think about the state of education today?" More than likely you'll "hear" something that's equal to a PR person's worst nightmare.

You'd hear things like:

"Teachers are terribly underpaid."

"Students are so disrespectful."

"Parents are not involved enough."

"No one cares about teachers."

"Legislators and school districts are out of touch with reality."

"Students don't care and don't want to learn."

"All they (schools and politicians) care about are test scores."

Now, I'm not here to debate whether or not some or all of these issues are true (or even why they exist), but rather to question if YOU are paying attention to what you're hearing.




See, whatever we pay attention to we digest. And like food, whatever you digest influences how you feel. If you don't believe me, try poison (of course I'm being facetious). But some of the things we allow into our ears, just like poison, can adversely affect our health and how we feel about our job as teachers.

And how you FEEL about something usually determines how you ACT towards it; and how you act towards it will ultimately determine the RESULTS you produce from it (in your life as well as on your job). So, my question again is, "What are you paying attention to?"

It doesn't take much effort to "hear" and focus on all of the ills, issues, and problems we face in education; most outsiders can't even understand how we manage to survive a week of it.

However, I often tell my friends when they question my sanity (which is quite often) concerning teaching and my ability to maintain a positive attitude:

"I have a simple choice each time I start a new school year: I can either focus on whining about teaching or I can focus on winning as a teacher. And I've learned from 14 years of teaching experience that whining (or worrying) has never produced a positive benefit for me. So that's why I choose to pay attention and focus on winning."

So what about you? What are you paying attention to? Remember, always keep your eyes on the prize and keep your ears on the cheers (instead of the jeers of the critics).

Teach with passion!


Joe Martin is an award-winning national speaker, author, professor, and educational consultant. His mission is to help students, teachers, and administrators learn, lead, and live with purpose and passion. To find out more visit his web site at


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