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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

If I could, I'd lay money on the claim I'm about to make: If you do the one little thing I'm about to suggest, you will have a great school year. Here it is:

At the end of every day, identify three things that went well in your classroom. That's part one -- what went well? When did you see indicators that your students were learning? That they were happy to be in school?

And part two: For each thing that went well, what was your role in it? What action did you take that resulted in the positive outcome?

Let's say, for example, that the thing that went well was that the first day of school was calm and everything went as planned. When you explore your role in this successful first day, you might name that your lesson plans were three pages long, your materials were all organized five days before, and you got a good eight hours of sleep the night before.

This exercise can be done mentally, perhaps on the drive home. It is even more powerful if it's written down and you compile a record of these daily successes throughout the year. And finally, it can also have a tremendous impact if it's verbalized -- perhaps shared with a colleague as an end-of-day ritual together. The key is that it becomes a habit of mind.

So what is this habit and why is it important?

This habit trains your mind to find the positive in every day and to identify your own agency in creating that positive. Rick Hanson, the author of The Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, describes our brains as "like Velcro" for negative experiences -- we dwell on them, and "like Teflon" for positive experiences -- they slide right out of our minds. Our minds are practically programmed to notice and remember the things that aren't working -- and as teachers we know there are plenty of those each day. The little successes, growth, and positive moments are washed away by the tidal waves of what's not working in schools.

As the waves of what's-not-working batter us day after day, our emotional resilience erodes. We burn out. The practice I'm suggesting can be as an antidote. It won't resolve all the problems we deal with in schools, but it can help us build emotional fortitude so that we maintain our energy. If every day, you can identify what's going well within your sphere of influence, and how your actions resulted in those going-well moments, you might have a very different kind of school year than you've ever had. Try it!

Comments (11)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Lisa's picture

EXCELLENT article, great read, fabulous advice! Thanks for sharing!

Cynthia Reiley's picture
Cynthia Reiley
Kindergarten Teacher from California

Simple, practical, and EFFECTIVE advice! This is also a great technique for students who struggle with academic, social, and/or behavioral issues.

Jamie Armin's picture
Jamie Armin
Health Science & Life Skills Middle School teacher from MA

Awesome! Great one to share! Have a fantastic year everyone!

Christin East's picture
Christin East
Assistant Principal~ Goochland Middle School

Self reflection is a powerful tool and focusing on the positive lends itself to positivity in your classroom. In other words, your positivity will exude from you and into your students. Have a great year!

Susan Boggs's picture
Susan Boggs
Cubert's Cube, Online Community Manager

Training "your mind to find the positive in every day" and staying focused on the positive outcomes is great advice at the beginning of the school year for both parents & educators alike! Thanks for the reminder.

ttrspks's picture
ttrspks
English Teacher from Queens, NY

I know what was said in this article is totally right. Lots of successful people suggest journaling what you are grateful for each day, setting 3 intentions for the day, etc. This falls right in line with what educators should do to stay sane. I support this, and I know from experience that it works. Your mind certainly gets in the habit of seeing the good. Thing is, when you begin to see the good all around you, it makes you more giving, kind, and happier!!

Stacy Allison's picture
Stacy Allison
Kindergarten Teacher from California

This year I have set as a goal to add reflection to my day, every day! I love your idea of finding the positive in the day and taking it apart to see why it worked. I'm definitely going to try it.

Sarah's picture
Sarah
Technology Specialist from California

How true it is that the negative aspects of the day resonate within us, yet we forget to pat ourselves on the back for our successes, big and small. As I work on reflecting throughout my day, I must remember to not allow only the negative reflections, but focus too on the child who remained focused during the whole 45 minute session today!!

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

The power of positive reflection! Too often we dwell on the negative of the day and don't focus on what went well. This is great advice on so many levels. Teachers should recognize the good that they do every day, keep track of why it went well and what they can do to maintain that, and leave each day on a happy note.

I think this is a great idea and I agree with Sandra - everyone should be doing this. We (as in everyone from kids to parents to teachers and administration) need to focus more on the positive instead of drowning in the negative.

Melanie Link Taylor's picture
Melanie Link Taylor
Educator, Blogger, Southern California

Teaching is so absolutely one-day-at-a-time. Sure, we make long-term goals, but the application of all our spectacular planning and implementation is the end of the day question we ask with the kids, "What did we do right today?'

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