How to Control Your Environment Before it Controls You


I recently had a guest on the podcast named Bill Cecil , who inspired me to write a few more podcast episodes and this blog post specifically.

Bill was talking about the dangers of allowing others in the profession to cloud your judgment. He referred to this unfortunate circumstance as ‘secondhand smoke,’ whereas the attitude, perspective and behaviors of someone can affect your livelihood and job performance just by sharing the same environment.  Just like secondhand smoke affects passersby, so does a negative, toxic individual on an entire school body.

You cannot control who smokes around you, but you can control what environment you walk in to. The same is true for your career. You cannot control who works around you, but you can control how (and how often) you interact with them. Don’t let the ‘secondhand smoke’ get the best of you, or worse, start controlling your inner peace, motivation and passion to serve our nations’ kids on a daily basis.

Working in the educational field is a hard job full of obstacles. Secondhand smoke only makes things more difficult. Why make your job that is already hard, harder? Don’t willingly contaminate yourself.

Below is a list of tips to control your environment before it controls you:

  1. Decide what you stand for– If you decide what you will tolerate and what you won’t ahead of time, it makes it easier to make decisions that align with your plan in the moment. Ask yourself, “will I smoke this cigarette?” or in other words, “will I grumble, complain and badmouth my colleagues or administration?” If you write a personal mission statement that you will live by while at work, you can ensure your actions and reactions in the moment are a product of your mission statement rather than getting persuaded by the environment. Your pre-determined mission statement becomes a foundation by which you base all future decisions upon.
    • Example- “I will only speak with individuals about issues that concern them. I will not use sarcasm in my commentary. I will build others up and provide inspiring words when asked.”
  2. Build up a protective layer– One way to not allow the smoke in is to keep it out. Surround yourself by likeminded people who also know what they stand for and are willing to stand together for the betterment of the staff and students.
  3. Avoid smoky environments– Even with a great plan and good people around you, we make mistakes. Sometimes the pressure is too much to overcome. In those instances, it’s better to just avoid the environment altogether. Staff lounges, the playground, or dismissal small talk are breeding grounds for secondhand smoke. Plan to move about these specific hot spots during non busy times or decide ahead of time where in that location is safe and who you can partner with to keep you clean during those moments.
  4. Model a smoke-free lifestyle– Students are watching your every move as you are the most consistent adult in their life during the school year. The same is true of your colleagues. When you take a stand for what you believe in, hang out with a crowd that has similar beliefs, and avoid any locations that do not align with these beliefs, then you are modeling a better way of life. You are walking the same path, but the experience couldn’t be more different- some notice the dead trees and fallen leaves and others notice the sunset and bubbling brooks. Model daily decision-making skills that ensure you stay productive, healthy and happy and others will want to join in. Change the status quo and little by little your environment will catch up to the model you have set. Before you know it, a cleaner, brighter environment will surround you!


What helpful tips would you add to this list?


About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.