Friday, June 26, 2009

A Meter of Happiness and Success

A few years ago I blogged about "booby-trapping your day for happiness," or at least some happy moments. Now research backs up this idea. And it's not just good advice for teachers. Kids too, and in fact everyone benefits from at least three positive experiences for every one negative.

In a recent U.S. News and World Report article, "Positive Psychology for Kids: Teaching Resilience with Positive Education," points to experts' findings of how accenting the positive in experiences can help students cope with the stress of learning. And that means learning how to deal with failure as well as success.

This goes much better than mere self-esteem. In the past decade or so, I've seen the hollow sense of self-esteem students have been given by the empty words of "great job" and "excellent" no matter what the outcome. Rather than our gilding every effort no matter how weak or futile, students need to learn to find the silver-lining in the clouds of their mistakes and missteps.

The article also links to a free website to test your own happiness ratio, designed by Barbara Frederickson, a professor at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

"Doing so might help you learn the sources of your positive emotions and the
triggers for you negative ones. 'The truth emerging from the science is that
feeling good as it is a wise investment in our future,' she says."
Studies are showing that teaching our students as well as ourselves how to interrupt the negative scripts we have in self-talk and with each other can lead to greater achievements in the long run and longer life. Resiliency.

As a result of inflated grades and so called lessons in self-esteem, I've seen students in my office in tears over the "first B" and dealt with parents who complain about a score because they "know" their child is an "A student." What ridiculous--pressure on students with all the emphasis not on achievement and learning but on scores and false ideas of esteem.

Remembering the maxims about learning more from our mistakes than from our success, I ask whether students did their best, what they learned from the activity, what they learned from the score, and what they can do to make their best better. Only be being honest with children, with what is expected and what is accomplished can we truly accentuate the positive, teach the positive, and teach resiliency--all which is much more lasting and fulfilling than a cliche high-five for mediocrity.


Cat said...

Have you seen the 3BT website? Very simple idea of being able to find 3 things to consider positives. I've found it lovely to read, but also quite inspiring in terms of finding a different perspective for some very dark days.

leah armelagos said...

I found your blog on a list compiled by my instructor-I am in a teacher's training program at the University of Michigan. I find this entry very intuitive and very applicable. I can so relate to the the student's situation about receiving "the first B". The pressures put on students to perform is insane and I think your post provides solutions to this problem.

Confronting our negative thoughts about ourselves and the unrealistic expectations we have for ourselves is key to realizing our innate worth. Students need to be reminded that it is not WHAT they do that makes them significant but WHO they are is already significant.

Thanks for sharing!