Pedagogy Welcome

Bringing Optimism Into The Classroom

You may know the names Norman Vincent Peale, James Allen, Earl Nightingale, Robert Schuller, and Dale Carnegie largely because of their work in the area of positive thinking. One of my favorite proponents is Zig Ziglar. In his book, Born to Win: Find Your Success Code, he wrote the following: Positive thinking won’t allow you to do anything, but it will allow you to do everything better than negative thinking will. 

If positive thinking is such an important component in our life and work, how can we harness it for use in the classroom? In the book Growing Positive Mindsets: Principles and Practices for Maximizing Students’ Potential, authors Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers provide the following five strategies for developing what they identify as “practical optimism” in students:

  1. At the close of class, instructional period, or school day, have students identify one thing that went well for them. Make this part of the closing routine and allow students to share their positive experience with others.  
  2. At the beginning of the school day, have students identify one thing that went well for them the day before. Make this part of the opening routine each morning to remind students that they have had good experiences and position them to seek good things throughout the day.  
  3. Encourage a daily “good things” journal. Even as great as human memory can be, we still need to be reminded of things – especially good things. By keeping a journal of the positive things, students can refer to it when things may be less than positive and find encouragement to move forward in meaningful ways. Fun fact: I still keep a “good things” book and refer to it often.  
  4. Develop gratitude language. The more we speak gratitude, the more we develop an attitude of gratitude. Make gratitude a common part of your daily classroom language and watch it take hold of your students. 
  5. Have students identify something they look forward to learning in a new lesson. By having students look forward to something positive in the lesson, they are able to reduce the fear and anxiety that sometimes accompanies the challenges of learning new material. 

  As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can apply these strategies to your own classroom practice. You and your students will be glad you did!

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