Positive Psychology: The Key to a Thriving Classroom
When we think of psychology and psychiatry, traditionally, we think of “fixing” or solving some form of a mental conundrum or psychopathology. However, with the advancement of psychology and a greater understanding of the human mind, researchers have pioneered the field of positive psychology.
By definition, positive psychology is the study of what takes people from average and satisfied to thriving, healthy and consistently happy. Working collaboratively with traditional psychology and its focus on understanding and healing dysfunction, positive psychology allows greater insight into a person’s life purpose and brings a sense of meaning to our daily existence.
This relatively new, more optimistic approach to life and mental health has exciting implications for the real world as well as in the classroom. Here are a few ways you can use the power of positive psychology to take your classroom from surviving to thriving and help your students achieve their full potential.
- As with clinical psychology, positive psychology practices are most effective when a baseline of health, order and control are established. Before going all-in with positive psychology in the classroom, it’s first necessary to hone your classroom discipline strategy, achieve a solid level of trust and understanding with your students and figure out a set of classroom rules that work for you.
- Practice mindfulness in the classroom. Mindfulness, bringing one’s attention to the present moment, has shown to contribute directly to children’s development of cognitive and performance skills, executive function, social wellbeing, emotional stability and physical health, as evidenced in research done in association with the University of Exeter. Not to mention, mindfulness practices are quick, easy, require no funding and can also help improve your own mental health as an educator.
- If you find success with mindfulness in your classroom, approach your administration about a school- or district-wide plan to give students consistent and holistic exposure to mindfulness.
- When it comes to discipline, make positive reinforcement your go-to strategy. Positive reinforcement is the first step in preventing poor classroom behavior, and encourages students to make good decisions without the threat of punishment. Strategies for positive reinforcement include:
- Giving extra credit for thoughtful answers or participation
- Giving students explicit praise for good behavior
- Encourage students to recognize effort and good behavior in their peers. Remember, you don’t have to be the sole positive reinforcer in the classroom. Make it a class-wide practice.
- Allow time for creative exploration and encourage students to pursue their interests and hobbies that they have outside of the classroom
- Set aside an hour or two each week during which students can study, practice or research a topic of their choosing. Incorporate this into the curriculum by creating a project or presentation out of this time.
- Teach students to self-reflect. Journaling, oral expression and sharing with their peers is especially helpful in teaching children the language and social skills necessary to connect with and learn from each other, as well as insight into their mental and emotional functioning.
Positive psychology is all about unlocking our full potential and, as teachers and parents, that’s exactly what we want for our kids. Share your own successes with positive psychology in the comments below to keep the conversation going!