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An Experiment in Positivity

When was the last time you talked to someone about positive news? Do you have to take a long pause before realizing what it was? It is so easy to get caught up in negativity and complain about the bad things happening around you. I noticed this one day when my students drifted in on a cold and rainy morning in February. 


“This weather sucks”, complained Ivan, throwing his backpack to the ground, “I want to go back to sleep.” Ayla walked over groaning and said, “I agree with you; this is the perfect day to go back to sleep.” Soon after, several more students chimed in and made complaints ranging from forgetting homework to having a breakfast they didn't like. I heard negativity all around me and was feeling it strongly. It began to put me in a terrible mood. I noticed the way it slowed my students down and impacted the vocabulary they were using. Many of them were frowning and shuffling around the classroom. One negative comment led to another, and soon enough, my observations led to something positive: a new idea for the class.  


I took out chart paper and put a simple title at the top, reading “Good News Board.” I explained the purpose to the class: for them to share good news when they walked in each Monday morning. People could read it throughout the week and add to it, as well as engage with others about comments they connected to. I wrote down the first piece of good news: My parents were celebrating their 43rd wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day. Some of my girls excitedly jumped up and down, smiling and raising their hands to comment. One of my boys, Hudson, shyly raised his hand and told me he wanted to add to the board. He wrote, “My brother is graduating from the Navy and we are gonna see him graduate in Chicago.” Several more students lined up to write comments, and I heard many talking about graduations they had experienced in their lives. Fernie high-fived Hudson and told him to tell his brother “congratulations.”


The following Monday morning, I walked into the classroom and put up a new poster with the same title. I wrote, “My dog Bella Bear turned 7 over the weekend. We got her a special dog treat and sang to her.” I was eager to see what would fill the lines once the bell rang. When my first student, Olivia, walked in, she immediately glanced at the poster and smiled as she read through what was written. She grabbed a purple marker and wrote, “My neighbor has a cat that had kittens. I get to have one!.” As soon as Liza came in, she read the paper and added that she was getting a kitten for her birthday. Olivia ran to her and asked about kittens. Soon, they were smiling and talking about what they wanted to name their future pets. She, too, had been wanting one and now had someone to talk to about it. Matt walked in and scrawled, “Won my soccer game, super happy.” Evan, on his heels, grabbed a blue marker and neatly wrote, “Joined a baseball team, can't wait to make new friends.”


At this point in the year, months later, the idea has created happier and healthier students. We start the day off on a positive note and have become closer as a community. State testing started last week and I know that anxiety was on the rise. This past Monday, however, Delilah wrote, “I did my best on the test and am proud of myself. I can do hard things. I know we are all smart.” As I walked out when the day ended, I saw a heart drawn next to it. 


About the Author


Rebecca Brinkman is a fourth-grade teacher in Phoenix, Arizona. She has taught at the same school for her entire 17-year career. Her campus is a second home and it has a strong family feel to it. This is what draws her back every year. She is excited to begin her “Sweet 16th” year of teaching! She has taught 2nd grade for ten years and 3rd grade for six years. She has served as a team lead on her campus for six years. She earned a Masters in Education with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University, as well as a Masters in Reading. She also earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Arizona State University.

 

Rebecca achieved National Board Certification in the fall of 2019 in Early to Middle Childhood Literacy. She is passionate about building relationships and creating magic in the classroom for her scholars. She credits her former speech teacher as her reason for becoming an educator. She profoundly impacted her attitude towards school and self-esteem as a young student; Rebecca realized she wanted to make that same impact on children by helping them realize their strengths and pushing through personal challenges.

 

Her second biggest passion is travel! She can often be found planning her next big adventure. She also enjoys hiking, reading, storytelling with The Moth, volunteering, and bucket listing. The quote that resonates most with her is, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.”


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A significant number of phrazle individuals displayed expressions of displeasure and moved around in a disorganized manner inside the confines of the classroom. A cascade of critical comments ensued, which ultimately sparked a revelation in my observations: the emergence of a new concept for the class.

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Jun 24

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