Positive Psychology – in PE.

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of what makes life worth living!  It looks at the great things that you do and encourages you to see them, acknowledge them and be fully aware of the things that you do well.   Not to just focus on areas for improvement and see your pitfalls. It is important to build on the best things in life!  To look at strengths!  I like the way that this could really boost kids up for success in our PE classes.  Martin Seligman talks about Positive Psychology in this TED talk (below) explaining how it is different to traditional psychology and how this new model has developed and the stigma about this.  Are you a happy person?  do you have a meaningful life? do you have a pleasant life?

Currently we are looking at positive psychology or Awesomeness in our Health related topics, but this has made me think about what we could do to contribute to our lessons as teachers and for our students.

I have had some teething issues with my HS students as a new teacher at my school.  It always takes time to battle the new-ness factor and kids test you out and all of this happens while you are feeling vulnerable and new and not quite in control.  I have made the decision to look at how I can build up my students to recall where they are awesome and give them power over this rather than focus on the pitfalls of students or pull them up for their behviour or nag them about their work.  I like to think that I have high expectations of students, but you need to have a relationship with students to make this work.  I want my students to be more productive, happier, inspired and to take my average and positive students and make them happier rather than picking on the few kids who make life harder.

So, first acknowledge strengths in my students – either one-to-one or in a small (safe) group, call out when something works (and add a little detail), when ready call it out in a larger group, ask the students to look for this where possible and share these positive and awesome bits in my class and finally write progress reports home that tell the students that they are doing well and why to share this with their parents.  Promote positivity from within.

We have looked at small things that are awesome – intrinsic and extrinsic – what makes us happy?  And for each time that we say: I hate it when/ I don’t like it when… we look at saying something opposing : I love it when… I like it when.. .that was awesome because… and smile and connect this to others when you can in an authentic way.  Try and promote the ability to see the awesome things that you do, these don’t always have to come from an intrinsic source.

If you have kids who are testing you out – keep them in mind, but try and look at your happy, average, hard working students and see if what you are doing is making them happier and more productive in your classes.  Do you focus on the negative or the area of improvement or do you also strive to acknowledge the strengths and how awesome that is with your students?



  • mhamada

    Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to share – I agree, especially in the long winter darkness, we need to remember our kids are working hard and we need to focus on that! You have reminded me that I owe 3 new students Progress Reports for their hard work and enthusiasm this week too.

  • Mike McMillen

    This post made me reflect on my own teaching. As teachers we constantly seek to improve our students’ learning experience (I hope anyway!). At times we can become too focused on the negatives or weaknesses of a class or individuals which we would like to improve. Although this is important it can be easy to forget about the strengths and positive aspects that individuals bring to the class, and these need to be highlighted, encouraged, and developed too and is something I’ll be sure to work on. Thanks!

  • mhamada

    Thanks Andy for your comment. I am working hard to get this movement and just ‘let go’ a little of the tougher monkies and focus forwards on rebellion and revolution from within. I like the idea of positive and happy interactions and how this can belong to my kids not just to me. It is always great to know and work with others in the same mind-set.

  • mhamada

    Thank you Alexis, I will pass on the links to others, so inspiring to see PE leading forward in some great work with kids!

  • Alexis

    Hi, check out our website; goodthinkinc.com/education and see what pe teacher Dave Trejo is doing with his students that got the Gates Foundation interested!

  • andy vasily (@andyvasily)

    I love this post Mel. Well said. What you say strike at the very heart and essence of what I try to accomplish as an educator. Great advice. I’ll be retweeting this one and hoping that other Phys_ed teachers read it. 🙂

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