Spread Positivity

Positivity doesn’t just change the contents of your mind…It widens the span of possibilities that you see. ~Barbara Fredrickson

8705332490One of my favorite shows is Friends. I watched it when it first aired and continue to watch it in reruns each day. It makes me laugh and I love to laugh. I also try on a daily basis to be optimistic and find the positive events of the day, even when it is gray and gloomy and rainy like it was yesterday until 4:25. I had been dreading taking my dog J out to walk because he does not like to walk with purpose in the rain and I tend to have to half drag, half carry him. We left for our walk in a very light drizzle and while we were out there the skies began to clear and the sun came out. It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. It amazes me how a hint of sun can turn things around.

Fast forward to later that evening when my daughter was watching Friends. She regularly tells me that I remind her of Alec Baldwin’s character, “Enthusiastic Parker” and coincidentally that was the episode she happened to be watching. Here is a short clip to give you a sense of this character. You can skip to 1:31 to truly get a sense of this guy or take the 3 minutes to enjoy a laugh.

 

While Enthusiastic Parker may take his positivity to the nth degree, being optimistic and noticing the positive around you does make a difference in your well-being and in the people around you.

This week I am sharing two articles that speak to the effects of positive leadership and how to teach your students positivity.

The first article, “The Effects of a Positive Mindset on School Culture” talks about practical optimism as “characterized by a belief—in yourself and others—that success is possible, which in turn fuels determination to accomplish what you have set out to do.”

Making a conscious effort to model practical optimism and support a positive school culture can be transformational for you, your colleagues, and students. Adopting practical optimism as your modus operandi and taking advantage of opportunities to build rapport with colleagues and encourage them to continually hone their professional practice in positive ways will further enhance your well-being, as well as the culture of your school. You will improve relationship-building and communication skills that support empathetic, productive interactions with all educational stakeholders involved.

The article offers four strategies for nurturing and enhancing your optimism: doing for others, expressing gratitude, getting exercise, and deliberately focusing on the positive.

Focusing on the positive might take some effort. You can read about Positivity Ratios here , watch a short video about Positive Emotions here, and take Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity Ratio test over the next several days to see what kinds of things you notice as you go through your day.

The next article, “Teaching Happiness at School: 3 Activities to Cultivate Well-Being in Schools” is about teaching well-being to your students. It introduces the concept of the benefits of positive emotions as developed by Barbara Fredrickson,

… positive emotional experiences have long-lasting effects on our personal growth and development. Specifically, positive emotions broaden our attention and thinking, enhance resilience, and build durable personal resources, which fuel more positive emotions in the future.

The article suggest three easy ways to incorporate positivity in your classroom, my favorite being the “What Went Well Wall” where students write three things that went well for them during the lesson, school day, or week. I like this activity because it is an easy way to help your students reflect on each day and grow their ability to see the positive around them, plus, it is a visual reminder of all that is going well in their lives.

 

 

What I’m Learning Right Now

The new year has been a busy one of learning, growth, and reframing. It started with the Positive Education pilot retreat that I, along with 20 other colleagues, participated in over two days the 2nd week of January. It rekindled my interest in psychology, my first love, that I studied in college and for a time thought that would be my direction. Positive Education falls under the umbrella of Positive Psychology and is grounded in research and evidence on the effects and benefits of positive emotions on health, well-being, and relationships with others. In a nutshell, you can think of it as, “Others Matter”. Intrigued? You can see my notes from the retreat in this Storify.

When I like something, I usually dive in and learn as much about it as I can either through books, workshops, or coursework. Coincidentally, and perhaps a bit of the stars aligning, there was a course from from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in Positive Psychology that was beginning the following week on Coursera. I enrolled and am moving right through it. What I am learning is that we are hard-wired with a negativity bias which was helpful to our early ancestors who needed to be attuned to dangers. Negative emotions “scream” at us whereas positive emotions are more subtle “like a whisper”. The negativity bias makes it harder for us to recognize the positive experiences around us. “Positive experiences are actually more frequent than negative in people’s lives but we need to train ourselves to see them and let those positive events become positive emotions” (Fredrickson).

In addition to the Positive Psychology course I have been reading Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a PIRATE. What I love about this book is that he is blending his knowledge of marketing and his passion for magic and showmanship with his love of teaching. I recognize many of Burgess’ hooks and ideas from two previous courses I took from Wharton through Coursera. TLAP encourages and reminds us as educators that we need to make our content relevant to the students and we need to find ways to make our classes unforgettable so that students want to come to class to learn. It is not enough to just show up and deliver our lessons, we need to find ways to incorporate our passions and our students’ interests into each class so students are engaging with the content in meaningful, memorable ways.

You can read my current notes for both Positive Psychology and Teach Like a PIRATE here in this Storify.