I am so excited that Barbara Fredrickson's book, Positivity, http://www.positivityratio.com/book.php is out! It is on it's way from Amazon and will be here in a few days. I took the online quiz, available free on the book's companion website, http://www.positivityratio.com/, and registered to keep track of my daily positive ratios. There are wonderful tools to help learn more about the process of increasing well-being through positive emotions.
Today, as I thought about the range of positive emotions that can be elicited and built upon in the classroom, I decided to focus in on occasions where kids were amused, curious, silly, fascinated, playful and downright cute! As I purposefully savored those moments, I overheard one little girl say to her neighbor, "Are you kidding me?" in the most adult tone that a 5 year old could muster. As I grinned and noticed her watching me, a warmth flowed through my body and a calmness seemed to fall upon the room. I was reminded that kids watch my face often, looking for signs of my reactions, and I need to be mindful of that power. As easily as I can elicit a giggle, it is far easier to elicit a negative emotion or expression.
As I joined my class in singing our regular good morning song with the puppet we so fondly call, Mr. Monkey, I watched the students' faces as Mr. Monkey tried to sing in my ear, or hang from my chair. Whereas in the past I would not have dared to make my kids "silly" for fear of losing classroom control, I now know that eliciting that joy and silliness gives them a safety and a calmness that increases ability to solve problems as they arise during the day.
When a student interrupted, or wanted to tell me a story that we didn't have time for, instead of reminding him to be quiet, I told him how wonderful it would be for him to share that story at snack time. The look of satisfaction on his face was priceless.
I wondered if I could keep up this positivity as recess approached. Thursday is my yard duty day, a day I normally dread. I decided to intentionally strike up conversation with students who were looking a bit lonely, or seemed to need a chat, instead of my normal tendency to look for students getting into trouble. I hugged former students who came to visit, helped a few kids find classmates to play with, and before I knew it, the bell was ringing and recess was over. I couldn't believe how I calm I felt.
After recess and before lunch, I set out to give the district writing assessment to my kindergarten class. Where normally I can help students as they attempt the very difficult task of writing, I was mandated to remain quiet after verbally administering the writing prompt. I knew this would be a stressful endeavor, so I decided to try an experiment. I decided to use manila folders as dividers between students to reduce distractions and eliminate the possibility of cheating. This technique is hardly original, but my adaptation may have been. I asked my new and wonderful student teacher to draw a big smilie face on the side of the folder that the student would be facing while writing. I told my students that this smilie was to remind them to just do their best and that would be just great! As I suspected, the folder reduced the temptation to talk, and also seemed to calm the students. Perhaps it was just serendipitous, but my students performed better than prior classes had performed on a writing assessment at this time of year. And most importantly, no one was stressed out!
Thursday continued on with its positivity and I am reflecting with gratitude as I write. I can't wait for my book to arrive, and I hope that I one day have the chance to meet the author, Barbara Fredrickson, in person and tell her how grateful I am for her research on positive emotions.