Emotions are multi-colored...

With summer wafting away and students back in school now, teachers often ask me: what is positive psychology anyway? I answer that it is a compendium of reciprocal principles and practices that promote optimal learning and overall well-being in the classroom. I tell them that it is a transformational shift of focus to emotion and strengths-based learning and accomplishment. There is no “bad” behavior — only poorly regulated emotion and underdeveloped strengths.

Positive psychology is the child of affective neuroscience and first cousin to social emotional learning. The neuroscience of learning explains why positive psychology works so well. Positive psychology claims emotional learning as a pre-requisite for academic and social learning. Positive emotions build positive strengths that empower children to make friends, find meaning, and accomplish goals. Children and adolescents learn to seek the golden mean of emotional expression and to find their golden self — rather then covet gold stars.

In every classroom, adding or integrating positive psychology into the academic curriculum has the power to dramatically improve child and adolescent achievement by helping them to stay optimistic, delay gratification, strengthen determination, increase resiliency, build social relationships, and find satisfaction. There can be no more important academic or life lesson for children or youth to learn and there is no more important lesson for the teacher to teach them.

Children and adolescents who develop those qualities are more likely to succeed in their life-long endeavors, large and small, because they are equipped to overcome the adversity, failure, and difficulties that are inevitable in life. What’s more, they develop a lasting happiness, deeper appreciation for learning, earn better grades, and live more accomplished lives.

Translating positive psychology theory and research for teachers is relatively easy. There is a taxonomy, strategy, and technique for that! Almost any learning activity can incorporate positive psychology.

Sharing a sandwich cut into fractions, graphing the categories of trash picked up on the beach, or acting out emotions in a school play enriches life and teaches important life lessons. When the teacher implements positive psychology in the classroom, the expected learning outcomes are an increase in engagement and strength, an increase in positive emotions and emotional regulation, and an increase in positive relations, and an increase in positive intentions.

 Like the memories of summers past, positive psychology makes the good — better.

 Enjoy Today ~ Patty


Read more about positive psychology in general at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center


Recommended readings from the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center are found here


Read Christopher Peterson’s Positive Psychology Blog: What is Positive Psychology and What It Is Not?


Summertime poetry guaranteed to evoke positive and poignant emotions at Poets.org


Read Yee Herbert Wong's charming book for preschool children and early readers, Summer Days and Nights (2012), published by Henry Holt & Company about how to make happy summer memories.


I would love to hear from you. Are there any positive psychology classrooms in your school? Are you a positive psychology teacher? Would you like to join my positive psychology teacher club? 

My upcoming book, Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom, is the first in a series intended to help teachers build positive psychology classrooms.

About the Author

Patty O'Grady, Ph.D.

Patty O’Grady, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Tampa committed to transformational education. She is the author of Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom.

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