Being a student is tougher than ever. It is vital that we, as teachers, find ways to support and help our students stay positive in and out of the classroom. Encouraging a positive attitude in students may be one of the most difficult parts of the modern classroom, but it will always be worth it.
While sometimes encouraging a positive attitude in students seems like grasping at straws there are a few things we can do from day one and every day after that will help our students.
Anticipate Pain Points
You know your students better than just about anyone else. Some students spend more time with their teachers than they do with their families during the school year.
Use this knowledge to really get to know your students’ pain points. When you know their stressors you are better equipped to anticipate when your students’ self-esteem may take a blow and build them up instead.
For example, I had a student who really, really struggled with multiplication. He was an absolute math whiz when it came to pretty much everything but multiplication. He and I spent a lot of one-on-one time talking about growth mindset and how multiplication hadn’t clicked for him YET, but it would with some hard work.
I knew every day when it came time for fact fluency he was going to get down on himself, especially when other students were celebrating their accomplishments. Instead of letting this part of the day become a roadblock and self-esteem killer he and I worked out a plan. He happened to attend our after-school program, so a couple of days a week he would check in there and then come back to me to practice. During this time there was no pressure of other students celebrating their achievements, so he was able to really focus and nail down his facts.
Anticipating what stumbling blocks your students will have allows you to better meet their needs and keep their positive attitudes intact.
Ask and Listen
Sometimes you just have to get the negative out.
I have one friend I call when I need to complain. I call and get it out, and then I can move on. Our students need this sometimes too.
When a student is in a low place ask them what is going on and then just listen. Don’t try to solve the problem right then and there. Just listen. This tells students their thoughts are valid and that it is okay to feel bad from time to time. While you are listening try to figure out the pain point, and don’t mention it to the student, but keep it in mind for the future. This will allow you to anticipate low moments in the future and prepare your student for them.
Watch for Early Warning Signs of Negativity
Rarely do our students go from happy go lucky to down in the dumps. Usually, there are a lot of warning signs that students are starting to slide into a negative headspace.
When you keep an eye out for these early warning signs you can nip them in the bud before they become a big point of contention.
The truth is that sometimes we get ourselves into a negative headspace and don’t know how to get ourselves out, so we dwell on it. Our students have the same thing happen and are even less prepared to pull themselves out of the dark.
When we keep an eye on our students’ self-esteem levels we can better help them when they start to slide from Positive Polly to Negative Nelly.
Model Positive Thinking
Our most powerful tool to help our students stay positive is to model positive thinking ourselves.
Whether you are the happiest go lucky teacher there is or you feel down in the dumps it is vital your students see you have a can-do, positive attitude in the classroom.
Some days it is a total fake it until you make it thing, but if you fake it long enough it becomes real.
Show your students everyone faces challenges and you can get down in the dumps or you can get down to business. The power of positive thinking is a big deal and with the popularity (rightfully so) of growth mindset, there are millions of ways to show students the power of YET.
Next Steps for Staying Positive in the Classroom
The beginning and the end of our classrooms is our students. It is vital we model positive thinking and problem solving for them.
Let me know in the comments below what you do to support positive thinking and self-esteem in your classroom!
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