Does positive psychology have a place in the classroom?

Imagine you were going to lose your job at the end of this week. Would you consider this a motivational kick up the backside or a devastating kick in the teeth?

In the 1990s I worked as a Careers Adviser in County Durham. Traditional employers were disappearing fast. I was working with hundreds of adults facing redundancy and I was fascinated with the range of emotional responses I encountered. Some people saw the closure of a factory they’d worked in for years as a brilliant opportunity to go and do what they really wanted in their lives whereas as others were crushed by the stress of an imposed change to their familiar world. I learned new ways to help adults through turbulent times and many of the best techniques have been wrapped up in the fields of positive psychology, neuro-science and NLP. Studying how and why some people excel was the missing bit of psychology, following some stunning successes in understanding and treating many mental disorders in the last century.

Positive psychology in the classroom is a particularly exciting place to start as building resilient, confident, creative and compassionate young people is main aim of the best teachers. Positive psychology shows us how. The next generation may be the first to be financially worse off than their parents but they could also be the first generation to be confident and competent enough to create an authentically better world based on values such as wisdom, fairness, kindness, perseverance, creativity, honesty, courage and loyalty. And positive psychology doesn’t do away with academic rigour; it just gives it meaning.  We can then live in a country where everyone can thrive whenever redundancy or other changes present themselves.

The following slides, based on a presentation I delivered in April 2012 at the TES North conference, offer some hints for teachers to introduce positive psychology in their classrooms. For further methods my new book Personality in the Classroom is now available.

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