I recently stumbled upon a subject that I found fitting for the commencement of a New Year. It revolves around positive psychology and the fact that having a hopeful outlook can actually improve outcomes. Much of this topic can be seen in the work of Shawn Achor, a former Harvard student and teacher, who had one of the most popular and sought after classes at Harvard University relating to the topic. Mr. Achor has authored several books including Big Potential, The Happiness Advantage, and most recently, The Orange Frog.
In reading through The Orange Frog, a metaphor for breaking from the status quo and seeing things through the lens of a positive outlook, two main lessons can be learned:
> Being positive is contagious (so is being negative).
>Being positive is adaptive, meaning it allows for us to innovate and be more effective in our current environment and adapt more readily to new environments.
As a school leader, I look for practical applications for the knowledge gleaned through reading books, articles, watching TED Talks, etc. The biggest principle for me as a learner is to apply the information to be better at my work and to help those around me do the same. We live in a world fascinated with the negative, which may make positive psychology that much more important. I think in District 142 we do a good job of promoting the positive, but there is always room for growth. It’s how we engage with our students, our parents, and with one another. Do we have a growth mindset, where we’re always looking to take steps forward, or do we resort to the way we’ve always done things because it’s safe and known? This question will inform us as to whether we truly subscribe to seeing things positively or not.
If our goal is to live a healthy, happy, productive life, the manner in which we interact with others, our attitude about our chosen work, the things we decide to spend our time on will be greatly enhanced through the use of a positive lens. It doesn’t mean ignoring reality, but it does mean that by making the choice to be positive, we end up outperforming those as equally as skilled who have a less than positive outlook.
As we, here in District 142 continue to innovate, grow, connect, and prepare our learners for high school and beyond, the environment in which this process takes place is of paramount importance. We are keenly aware that we make a lifelong impression on our students, so we chose to do it positively for their benefit and ours.
As we begin a New Year and the second half of the school year, I wish everyone in the District 142 a positive, warm, and welcoming new beginning.
Dr. Paul McDermott