The power of positivity often gets overlooked in education. We’re so busy stressing about performance, competencies and percentages that we often forget to look at what breeds them. What are the environments that lead to high performing students, who are competent in a myriad of areas, who achieve high standards on academic work? Is there commonalities in how these institutions are set up?
I suspect that there is. If what Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, believes is true, that positivity leads to success, not the other way around, then we need to look at that pretty closely as we look at student success. If happy people are more prone to be successful, as research would suggest, why are we not focusing on supporting environments that promote happiness and well-being?
I was fortunate to get back to my alma mater the other day and go for a stroll through the beautiful campus. I was excited to get there as I remember fondly the great times that I had making new friends and learning all the interesting things that the University had to offer. What I saw took me back a bit, though. The smiling faces and sound of laughter just did not appear to be present. Final exams were on and the seriousness of marks and potential careers were the calling card of the day. There was a definite heaviness to the place. That sunk in and I recalled the feeling well. They say that you forget pain . . . . I guess I had too.
I couldn’t help wishing I had a magic wand though. Some magical spell that could make these serious young academics recognize how lucky they were and to change those frowns upside down. They were blessed to be in a top learning institution, in a safe country with all the potential in the world before them. You know why? Sure, them being grateful is important but even more important, being happy and upbeat would actually positively affect their test scores. That’s right, positivity actually affects success. Positive people are more successful.
So, my fellow teachers, how are we ensuring that our classrooms are creating positive learners, learners who are optimistic and happy about their lives, learners who recognize that this mark will not be the deciding factor in their happiness?
Something to think about as we plan for our instruction. How do we build confidence through happiness? How do we give our students the happiness advantage that Shawn Achor refers to?
Give Shawn’s TED talk a listen and see you think. I’d love to see your comments!
Keep on learning.