Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Knock me down get back up again (Tom Cochrane)

I would say that I'm an optimist. My lovely wife of 34 years, the present Mrs Purdy, however, is not!

We balance each other.

I'm not sure if we inherited those traits. Thinking about our parents, I don't think so. 

Instead, we grew into them over time via our experiences. 

According to an article in Edutopia by Marcus Conyers and Donna Wilson, research has demonstrated that optimism, traditionally considered to be an unchangeable trait, is a way of thinking that can be learned and enhanced. 

Which is a good thing because people with a positive viewpoint have less stress, better creative problem-solving skills, and better health outcomes than less optimistic people. 

This all has a spin off for education because, as Conyers and Wilson point out, 'optimistic learners are more likely to persist in the sometimes-hard work of learning, motivated by the belief that they can accomplish their learning goals'. 

Good stuff, right! As students get more optimistic  they are motivated to progress through learning difficulties and to attain higher levels of achievement. More optimistic students also have greater resistance to depression and the negative effects of stress.

Okay, so, how do we grow the optimism trait. Positive reinforcement.

Conyer and Wilson again: 
Emphasizing positive emotions helps students become more resilient and more likely to persevere with learning tasks. Their persistence is fueled by the belief that they will triumph over difficulty, learn from their mistakes, overcome plateaus in their performance, and progress. The mantra "I think I can! I think I can!" from an all-time favorite story, The Little Engine That Could, illustrates practical optimistic thinking.
The emphasis we have at school on positive relationships, restorative practices and a Not Achieved grade being a Not Yet grade are all part of emphasising optimism.

I've been working on the present Mrs Purdy's natural inclination towards pessimism for 34 years. Some things take time.

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