The Seven Greatest Gifts We Can Give Our Students
“You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind”
The scene was 2003 and the Berkley Bears hockey team was losing by three goals late in the second period of a semifinal playoff game. Players’ heads sagged on the bench, the team looked down and out. Unless of course, you looked behind the bench. There, you would undoubtedly find one particular coach pacing up and down, energy as high as ever, yelling to the players, “All we need is one, boys! All we need is one!” That coach was my dad and one of the earliest and most important lessons he taught me was the power of positivity. This is a lesson I try to teach my students every day and one of the greatest gifts we as teachers can give to our students.
To Start… The Science Behind Positivity
In the last twenty years, the field of Positive Psychology has exploded. Here are five powerful findings from the researchers. (Found in Jon Gordon’s book, The Positive Dog – Full list here):
- Positive people live longer. In a study of nuns, those that regularly expressed gratitude and positive emotions lived an average of 10 years longer than those who didn’t (Snowdon, 2001)
- Positive, optimistic salespeople sell more than pessimistic salespeople. (Goleman, 2011)
- Positive people tend to see the bigger picture and focus on solutions to problems. Negative people tend to have a narrower perspective and focus on the problem. (Fredrickson, 2009)
- Positive emotions such as gratitude and appreciation help athletes perform at a higher level. (Institute of HeartMath 2012)
- Positive people have more friends, which is a key factor of happiness and longevity (Putnam, 2000)
Teaching Positivity to Kids:
Over the last four years, I have tried many methods to teach my students to view the world with a positive mindset and to believe in themselves. Below is a brief summary of some of the ideas I teach at the beginning of the year and we continue to talk about daily at our morning meetings.
The Voice Inside Your Head: Best Friend or Worst Enemy?
It’s funny how many kids (and adults) don’t even realize that we all have an internal dialogue running inside our heads at all times. I bet you have a little voice in your head reading these exact words to you.. (see!) It’s important to realize the power that this voice has over our lives. This voice can either be your best friend or worst enemy.
This first step to teaching this to students to understand the power of this voice is to simply have them observe it for the day. Most students quickly realize how negative their inner critic is throughout the day. They notice throughout the day that while solving a math problem, they hear things like, “You’re not a math person, you can’t do this,” or “you’re not a good reader, why do you try?” I like to say, “Would you tell the person sitting next to you that they are terrible at math or reading?? So why would you say it to yourself!?”
After this conversation is when I tell students that, for once in their life, it is okay to talk back! Whenever they hear something negative, talk back with a growth mindset voice or even just add a “yet” to the end of the sentence. “I’m not good at multiplication” and “I’m not good at multiplication yet” are two completely different statements.
The Positive Dog and The Negative Dog
To borrow words from one of my favorite authors, Jon Gordon, I use the analogy that we all have two dogs living inside of us. The positive dog and the negative dog. Our positive dog is happy, optimistic, and hopeful whereas the negative dog is mad, sad, and fearful. These two dogs are always battling inside of us to take over our moods and emotions which drive our actions. So which dog wins the battle? The one you feed! If we feed the dogs (our minds) positive, hopeful thoughts, our internal dialogue will carry positive, hopeful messages which will drive us to make positive choices and actions. If we constantly feed our minds negative and pessimistic thoughts, our internal dialogue will drive us to make negative choices.
Power of Our Words
Our words are the most powerful thing we can use to change our internal world. Success and happiness are an inside job and the easiest way to make a drastic change toward a positive life is to change the words we use to describe our lives. All we have to do is feed our positive dog!
To prove the power of our words, take this sports example. Jose Lima was an absolute stud Major League pitcher in the late 1990’s for the Houston Astros. If you ever watched Lima pitch, it was very apparent that he had immense passion and excitement. At the peak of his career in 1999, Jose Lima was a 21 game winner; a huge accomplishment by any standard. However, the very next season, he was a 16 game loser. This was the worst turn around by a pitcher in Houston Astros history.
So what happened to cause this huge swing? (And no.. It was not Y2K). In 2000, the Houston Astro’s built a brand new stadium, and it had a much closer left field wall, which gave an advantage to the hitters, not pitchers. Even though he had every reason to be confident coming off his best career year, when he stood on the mound the first time the team visited the new stadium, Lima looked out to left field and declared, “I’ll never be able to pitch in here.” Sure enough, that next season was his career worst and it took him another four years before having another winning season. The biggest change? His attitude and his negative words.
I tell this exact story to my students and always start by showing a Youtube highlight reel of him in 1999. The words we choose and the attitudes we adopt make a major impact on what shows up in our world. We hope you’ll join us on this journey to raise a generation of positive thinking kids who are ready to make a positive impact on our world!
…By the way, my dad was right about only needing one goal. We came back that game to win in triple overtime and went on to win the championship.
Resources to Teach Positive Thinking to Your Students:
Read Aloud Books:
12 Quotes to use with your students:
- “Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours!”
- “Think happy, be happy”
- “If you think you can, you might. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”
- “Let your smile change the world but don’t let the world change your smile.”
- “Waiting for someone to make you smile is like waiting in a dark room for someone to turn the lights on.”
- “It is an amazing thing that every day we get to wake up and choose the attitude we will have for the day.”
- “People chase happiness not knowing it is right in their own mind.”
- “If you’re feeling blue, paint yourself another color.”
- “People are usually about as happy as they make their mind up to be.”
- “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
- “A person is a product of their thoughts. What they think, they become.”
- “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”