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.

 

 

Noteables from UNC’s Positive Psychology Course

33287341235_8080bc4a28I recently completed and earned a certificate from the Positive Psychology Course offered by the University of North Carolina through Coursera. I took it as a follow-up and to enhance my understanding of the Positive Education pilot I participated in along with a group of colleagues this past January. Since psychology was my first love, taking this course was a natural next step for me.

As these are notes (often quotes) from the online lecture videos (and I tried to capture what was said), all are attributed to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson. Here are some highlights:

Emotions and Responses:

  1. Responses are a big part of emotions. You can’t have an emotion without having a response to that emotion, and how we interpret a situation is the place that turns an emotion into despair or hope.
  2. Negative emotions scream or jump out at us whereas positive ones are more subtle. We need to train ourselves to recognize and be intentional about seeing the neutral things in our lives as positive events.
  3. Feeling good can transform people for the better. They become more optimistic, resilient, and socially connected.

Resilience:

  1. Resilience is a resource that can grow, a muscle you can build.
  2. Positive emotions both build and enable resilience.
  3. The more resilient you are the better able you are to find positive emotions and then the more your resilience builds from there- it spirals.

Prioritizing Positivity:

  1. People who want to be happy prioritize parts of their day where they might be able to experience positive emotions.
  2. We need to put enjoyment on our “To-Do” lists and prioritize positivity, making it part of our daily routine.
  3. Those who prioritize positivity reap many benefits:
    1. they are better able to express appreciation,
    2. they build better relationships,
    3. are more resilient,
    4. report higher life satisfaction,
    5. have reduced depressive symptoms.

Positivity Resonance:

  1. Moments of connection between two people who are co-experiencing a positive emotion, “what I’m feeling is a little bit of what you’re feeling.”
  2.  People need to feel safe and experience real-time, sensory connection for positivity resonance to emerge. This is hard to do through texting.
  3. Emotions are contagious. Smiles are ways to draw out positive emotions of others, not just to express the feeling of the person who is smiling.
  4. Smiles are ways of making people feel they are on the same page and could serve as a way to create a moment of shared positivity.

Health Benefits:

  1. Experiences of connection affect the heart and it’s functioning.
  2. When vagus nerve is functioning well, it slows your heart and gives a healthy rhythm to it:
    1. better able to regulate attention, emotions, navigate social situations so can connect with people better
    2. day to day experiences with positivity resonance improves your vagal tone (cyclical, spirals)
    3. the more day to day positive emotions, the more connected and attune people felt;the more connected, better vagal tones
    4. when negative emotions become prolonged or a way of life, they are related to changes in the way the heart functions and body systems function (but take caution not to correlate negativity and your bad health!)
  3. Positive emotions and positive social connections are health behaviors as they increase cardiac vagal tones.

Ripple Effect:

  1. Whatever emotions we are putting out there, are the ones we are inviting others to feel.
  2. Emotions belong to everyone who is in the room.
  3. The way leaders express their emotions affects the team.
  4. Micro moments of connection are not just about our own health, but about giving health to others, radiating health towards others.
  5. If your eye is tuned towards making these moments of connection, you can make more of these moments come alive rather than skip over them.
  6. Rituals of expressing something we are appreciative of or looking forward to- helps warm up the room when people are getting together to work, have a meeting. Takes no time and it makes an impact on the day.

To learn more, I encourage you to check out this course on Coursera; it will be well-worth your time and effort!

photo credit: publicdomainphotography Slow Motion Water Droplet via photopin (license)

Think on These

This week I have been spending a lot of time reading and watching videos. What can I say, I am addicted to learning! While I often share tools, tips, and/or tricks, this week I am sharing ideas in the hopes that you too will spend time thinking and imagining, and reimagining.

The first set of articles I am sharing is part of a thoughtful series of exchanges between two different educational leaders who conversed via a series of letters back and forth about School, Education, and of course, Students. The set begins with the Dominic A. Randolph, Head of Riverdale Country School in NYC, asking and writing on, “What is School?”. It is followed by Max Ventilla, CEO and founder of Alt School in San Francisco’s response, “Why is School?”. “How We Learn Best”, “How School’s Should Change”, and “Reimagining School” complete this thought-provoking series. The two speak to technology, engagement, purpose, mindsets, modeling, leadership, cultivating curiosity, passion, perseverance, and curating contexts that foster and allow for independence. The two are quite reflective in their thinking, and begin important conversations that need to be continued.

One click leads to another and so I went to Riverdale’s website to see some of the links that Randolph mentioned, one of which is the Character Lab. Since my school places a high value on our  Character Education SEED program (Social Emotional and Ethical Development), not to mention our forthcoming partnership with the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Education program (you can read the Storify here), I was interested to see what the Character Education program at Riverdale is about.

What I found is a series of videos on character, resilience, growth mindset, and more, beginning with this one from Dr. Martin Seligman from the Grit and Imagination Summit that was held at the University of Pennsylvania this past summer. In his lecture, Seligman speaks to the beneficial effects of Positive Education- teaching well-being to children.

Of course I wanted to see what the summit was about so I Googled it. You can learn more about some of the programs offered here. And, if you want to expand your teaching and continue your learning, take a look at some free courses offered from Penn, you can view them here and here (2 different sets).

If you like that set of posts, then you might consider more from from Bright which features articles on innovation in education.

“Developing the Innovator’s Mindset” is a video from George Couros, an inspiring and innovative educational leader. He was asked to give a keynote for an online conference and spoke about his book, The Innovator’s Mindset. Couros speaks to several things one of which is “innovating inside the box”. We are often encouraged to think outside the box, but for those in schools where there are pressures, initiatives, standards, and other obstacles, Couros suggests being innovative within the box of constraints. We cannot ignore the box but we can think differently within it. Couros gives us numerous other points and ideas to consider in this keynote video that I highly recommend taking the time to watch.

Last is a recent post from Alan November in which he describes his children and the two different types of learning experiences they had while in college.

We are in the midst of a historic transition in education, in which we are providing more options and flexibility in creating learning cultures that significantly raise the expectations of what our students can accomplish.

We now can rethink the allocation of physical space and how courses are scheduled to support various students’ learning styles. What is really exciting is the sense of student empowerment that can emerge from a highly flexible learning design, enabled by a robust digital campus.

Student empowerment, access to content, social tools and online communities are just some of the ways his children’s learning differed though both went to (his son will graduate this spring) top universities. Which one do you think his children say will be “better prepared for the world of work”?

For more great learning, check out this week’s Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition.

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.