How teachers and faculty at MVHS can implement positive psychology to create a productive learning environment for students

Psychology has the reputation of being mainly aimed toward diagnosing and curing mental illnesses. However, positive psychology, a branch of psychology that instead focuses on supporting people by reinforcing their strengths, has been garnering attention in recent years.

Positive psychology is the study of positive aspects and behaviors exhibited by successful people and how they can be applied to help others thrive. Previously, psychology has mainly focused on mental illnesses; however, recently, there has been a growing interest in using positive psychology to reinforce people’s strengths and improve the classroom experience for both students and teachers. To start, a few practical ways of implementing psychology positive psychology in schools could include introducing more wellness programs on campus and having teachers bring attention to positive examples of student behavior, rather than focusing on negative behavior. Apart from that, encouraging activities like meditating and journaling would also help to increase mindfulness in the classroom. One of the main benefits of using positive psychology in the classroom is that it can help promote a positive and supportive learning environment by creating a sense of belonging and community among students, fostering gratitude and positive relationships, and helping students develop purpose and meaning in their school lives. 

This can be achieved by providing students with opportunities to set and work towards personal goals, and by rewarding their achievements. Another benefit of positive psychology in the classroom is that it can help increase student engagement and motivation, along with improving the mental health of students. Additionally, school-based therapist Akiko Chung believes that teaching students techniques for managing their emotions and stress can help to improve their overall well-being, which can in turn lead to better academic performance. 

“I think students who feel supported and engaged will be more motivated and be successful in the classroom. And [will also have] a better connection with the teachers,” Chung said. “I think sometimes teachers really use classroom participation to really try to understand where our students are. But the other thing is how to improve in general is really I think going back to self-care [because] emotions are very contagious. So either a teacher’s or student’s mood could set the tone for the classroom.”

World history teacher Scott Victorine also echoed this idea of positive psychology being a valuable tool for improving student well-being and learning in the classroom.

“Even if a student is taking like seven classes [and] six of them are extremely difficult and challenging, if you have even just one teacher a day or one period a day where you don’t feel as stressed, or you feel comfortable, you feel like you can really, you can cut loose, relax a little bit [and] still learn,” Victorine said. “I think that that’s a start. That’s a big thing. Really, I think we need to get more people on board, more teachers on board.” 

The general consensus is that implementing positive psychology in our classrooms would bring many benefits for student motivation and learning. The use of positive psychology can help to build trust, communication, and respect between teachers and students. However, senior Calson Lee believes that encouraging students to actively work on creating a classroom environment backed by positive psychology may not be so easy.

“There’s a very heavy emphasis on STEM subjects [at MVHS]…I also feel like there’s a lot of pressure on students to be like, better than everyone else,” Lee said. “And I feel like that’s unhealthy because I’ve definitely noticed students are comparing themselves to each other and like some students feeling bad that maybe they didn’t do as well on tests as some other students did. And I see this like, especially prevalent in things like math and science classes.”

 MVHS does have advisory periods that encourage practicing mindfulness; however, the academic environment at MVHS still makes it relatively difficult for students to focus on their well-being. Victorine brought up how academic pressure may decrease student enjoyment of the learning experience at MVHS.

“Without any break, I feel like students are under so much pressure to perform and to do well in school, that it almost becomes a burden that almost becomes like something you’re doing not because you really want to or you actually enjoy it,” Victorine said.

Despite the steps MVHS has taken towards promoting positive psychology at school, there are definitely further steps that students and teachers can take to make the learning environment in our classrooms at Monta Vista more supportive and conducive to student success.

For instance, a few ways of implementing positive psychology to create a more positive classroom environment might include incorporating interventions such as gratitude journals, mindfulness exercises, positive feedback, and strengths-based teaching. It would also be beneficial for teachers to put more emphasis on the well-being of students and encourage them to practice self-care. 

Positive psychology has the potential to greatly improve the classroom experience for students and teachers. By creating a positive and supportive learning environment, increasing student engagement and motivation, and teaching students techniques for managing their emotions and stress, positive psychology can have a significant impact on our education.

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