Emotion is a Subject

Sharing their feelings about grandmother's pie and other aspects of their lives, children and adolescents learn much more in school than long division and the names of chemical elements. They learn to make friends, to resolve disputes, to manage time, to look forward to summer vacations, to play soccer, to work as a team, to give compliments, to give insults, to give up, to keep trying, to forgive, to forget, to feel grateful, to feel embarrassed, and to find courage. They learn from all of the everyday experiences that occur within a classroom’s walls. They learn best when they are engaged in – and connected to – the emotions of learning. 

They learn why young Chief Joseph of the Nez Paz - after the tragic march along the Lo Lo Trail - surrenders, “I will fight no more forever.” They learn all the synonyms and antonyms for anger and how to spell them. They learn how ecological systems seek homeostasis and how to balance their own emotions. They learn how to modulate and recalibrate emotions in the same way that they learn to read the words -- happy and sad. If you teach to their emotions, they will never forget the lesson.

The teacher trains students to connect their good and bad moods to their positive and negative emotions, and to readily exchange one for the other like they trade baseball cards. Children learn to become self-aware of their emotions and the emotions of others, and intentionally change their moods accordingly. Adolescents learn to acquire a deeper self-understanding of emotion and learn to purposefully assess, monitor, and alter their emotions. A positive psychology teacher always begins with emotions in mind.

Teachers intuitively know that happiness is at the core of learning and is a by-product of positive emotion. Aristotle, the happiiness philosopher, said it does not come easily. Erik Erikson sighed that the pursuit of happy emotion is not for the faint of heart. Daniel Goleman, the father of emotional intelligence, wrote that the positive emotion that underscores happiness is not bestowed by blessing or birth - it is born of schooling and hard work.

 Except when you are eating grandmother's apple pie...

 Enjoy Today – Patty


Read more about emotional intelligence at http://danielgoleman.info/topics/emotional-intelligence/

Learn more about emotional regulation at http://www.regulatingemotions.com

Watch PBS New Perspectives on the West: The Story of Chief Joseph



I would love to hear from you. Do you remember a time when you were angry or sad in school? Embarrassed? Afraid? Did your teacher teach you to recognize, process, manage, channel, and redirect emotions - or suppress them?

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.

You are reading

Positive Psychology in the Classroom

Positive Psychology of Mindfulness

Magic Minds and 3 M's of Mindfulness

Wednesday's Child #1

Random Positive Psychology Conversations June 2015