The teacher lights the fire of learning by filling the school bucket with positive psychology principles and practices. The positive psychology teacher helps children and adolescents learn to use their emotional intelligence to derive meaning from a lesson or to infuse meaning into it. Meaningful learning arouses emotional connection that motivates students to participate more fully in the learning process.

Children and adolescents will intuitively choose options meaningful to them and pursue excellence at their own pace. Lessons that teach tolerance, helpfulness, fairness, resilience, peace, anticipation, and enjoyment give children a reason to personally invest in the learning process. They learn to use their strengths to light a fire for learning by filling their own bucket, and the buckets of others.

Children and adolescents are interested in topics of emotional use and value to them. Their natural instinct seeks a connection to others past and present and the world around them. They intuitively understand purpose and seek a rationale for their activity within a larger context.

Children and adolescents connect to the value of all authentic effort, “This conservation lesson will really help me because at home our electricity bill is too high”. Children and adolescents connect to the needs of others, “Now I can read to my little brother”. They connect to the big picture, “This may not seem very interesting to me now. However, if I want to be a dolphin trainer I am going to have to do well in all science.”

Meaningful links the past and the future to create a continuity of understanding. Children and adolescents comprehend that the past contributions of others bind them to make future contributions so they do not break the intergenerational contract to strive to live cooperatively, contentedly, confidently, and serenely with fortitude, inspiration, and joy.

Children and adolescents connect to their past and their future, “If my ancestors could endure so much hardship, I can sit here and pay attention a little longer. If I want my future to be safe and peaceful, I need to learn as much about the world as I can learn.”

Meaningful learning teaches children and adolescents the ecology of learning. They learn that personal decisions and actions have far-reaching consequences for others. They understand that they have the power to help or hurt in their classroom, across the hall, down the street, or around the globe. They understand choices have consequential implications and they build the confidence that helps them make the correct one.

Meaningful, relevant, individualized work, not based on worksheets or found in textbooks, assures purposeful learning. To the degree that children and adolescents relate to academic content in personal and emotional ways, they are more likely to understand it, remember it, and use it to build strengths. Strengths, in turn, fortify the relationship bonds that vest learning with purpose and meaning.

Meaningful learning connects to children’s and adolescent's emotions, strengths, and relationships motivating them to contribute to the greater good. Leanring is activated when they find ways to be obliging and helpful to others. When they find ways to find intrinsic meaning in the activity or know the extrinsic meaning.

So the fire is lighted as the bucket is filled.


Read: How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton

Read: How Full is Your Bucket for Kids? by Tom Rath, Mary Reckmeyer, and Maurie Manning. Kids/

Read: How Full is Your Bucket for Educators Educator’s Edition? by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton.

Watch: How Full is Your Bucket? on You-Tube

Explore: Pin Interest Page How Full is Your Bucket?


I would love to hear from you. Do you remember a lesson that was memorable for you? Was it a story about a heroic figure? What is a special project intended to help others? Do you remember a lesson that taught you fairness? Tolerance? Helpfulness? Do you remember a lesson that you eagerly anticipated? Why? Do you remember the type of lessons that you enjoyed the most? What meaningful lessons do you use to teach positive psychology? Have your students, themselves, learned to infuse meaning into a lesson?

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