Positive psychology on campus.

What is Positive Psychology?

“While traditional psychology focused its attention on pathology and problems, in the relatively new field of positive psychology, researchers strive to explore and understand the strengths of individuals and communities that contribute to their flourishing.” Source: Psychology Guide

Strengths first.

I am passionate about what positive psychology can do for students and educators in and out of the classroom. By first focusing on what is right, before examining what is wrong, students are motivated to move beyond, and in some cases, be transformed by their current limitations, history, and circumstances.

Link to: VIA Character Strengths Inventory

Balance is key.

Positive psychology is not about being happy and successful all the time. Instead, happiness is aspirational like a delicious meal at a 5 star restaurant. Wonderful but not to be expected, at every meal, all the time. (Otherwise, we set ourselves up for disappointment on the Kraft Dinner days.)

Instead, the field of positive psychology helps bring out the best in us. In a balanced way. The ebb and flow of life. Negativity is to be expected. The question is – how long do you stay there.

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Safe uplifting atmosphere.

As a professor, I believe it is paramount to create a safe and uplifting atmosphere in the classroom. A secure and consistent milieu where students know what to expect class to class, week to week, semester to semester. A place where students are encouraged to build upon their existing strengths, while feeling supported enough to share their current struggles.

Link to: Broaden & Build Theory of Positive Emotion

As I teach mostly nursing students, it is critical that I practice what I teach in and out of the classroom. Nursing students will also be responsible for creating an encouraging and safe space for their clients one day.

The yellow t-shirts are from the Yellow Umbrella Project, an Ontario wide college campaign for battling the stigma of mental illness on campus.

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 Positive psychology and student empowerment.

My highest goal is to work with young Canadians in a way that empowers and encourages them to become the best version of themselves. Cultivating success in a way that is unique to them. I believe that interactive lectures combined with warmth and real-life stories is the best approach for achieving this goal.

Link to: The Optimism Project

The photo below is from a leadership conference for college students where I discussed the connection between optimism and student success.

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Celebrating students every chance I get.

Ultimately, I hope to remind students of their gifts. While encouraging them to embrace their challenges. For we are the sum total of all that is powerful and vulnerable – within and around us. And it’s this extraordinary combination of strong and weak, good and bad, light and dark, that makes our world (and our classrooms) such a fascinating place to live (and thrive).

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From digital distraction to student connection.

How do teachers compete with smartphones?

They don’t.

Resistance is futile.

Competing with a machine is a downhill battle. Instead, teachers must focus on what they do best – connecting with students.  Rather than lamenting about students being glued to their smartphone, teachers should consider why students do it in the first place. You can’t solve a problem if you’re not asking the right question.

Step #1 Discover the underlying cause.

There is no doubt that smartphones have changed the way we live and learn. Which is why educators (including myself) must take a step back and reframe the smartphone problem. Student distractibility existed long before smartphones. Lack of attention is the common denominator.

We doodled. They text.

We passed notes. They facebook.

Step #2 Reexamine how you teach.

We all have an idea in our mind about how we perform at work. Yet the only way we will ever have an accurate picture of our performance is to collect data on our concrete behaviours. Click on Teacher Behaviors Inventory (TBI)  to obtain a PDF of this suggested assessment tool (used in my doctoral research).

Sample items from TBI inventory –

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The TBI assessment tool will help determine how you engage students, capture their attention, and sustain curiosity with instant gratification just one click away. The TBI also includes a measure of how you spark student interest and arouse curiosity in the lessons you teach. Completing the inventory will give you a baseline of your current teaching techniques. It will help identify areas of strength and challenge (potential growth).

Step #3 Model what you expect.

The next step in student engagement is to “become” what you expect from your students. Motivate students by being motivated!  For example, I write motivational quotes on the blackboard each day. The goal is to model each quote I post. And encourage students to do the same.

Grab attention by being attentive to the unique needs of each student, and responsive to the distinct personality of each class. Engage students by being engaged, passionate, and excited about the topics you teach. Enthusiasm is contagious! Stimulate curiosity by being curious about how students think.

Step #4 Show students you care.

In order to move from instant gratification to meaningful interactions in school (and in life), we must show students how much we care. We must be present and mindful  in our own classrooms. And in tune with each student and teaching moment.

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Student leadership conference at St. Clair College.

For students need to know how much their learning matters. How much they matter. Week after week. Class after class. Students are our reason.

To Learn More: Click on Be The Motivation

Live your dream NOW.

The stress of waiting.

The list is long when it comes to student stress. But by far, one of the greatest sources of stress is waiting!

Students are always forecasting into the future. Every single moment of student life is about waiting. Waiting for grades. Waiting for summer. Waiting for graduation.

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Forever in a day.

Students become frustrated waiting for what feels like a lifetime to practice the profession they’re in school for.

Textbook readings, class lectures, and endless exams seem miles away from actually doing their dream job.

Days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years. Time moves at a snail’s pace.

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Infinity in their minds.

For students, there are too many years before they can finally live their lifelong dream of becoming a nurse, a lawyer, a carpenter, a designer, a psychologist.

“Don’t worry, it will all be worth it in the end”. Easy for a professor to say. Challenging for a student to live. A day is infinity in a student’s mind.

(Little do they know that one day they will look back and fondly recall their college years as the best years of their lives.)

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 Bridging the (time) gap.

Listening to students lament year after year about the waiting game got me thinking (and dreaming) of a better way! Asking myself how I could bridge the (time) gap between education and profession.

My goal is to help students claim ownership of their present time. To help them live their dream job every single day. To remind them that life purpose does not require a job to be realized.

No more waiting.

Students do not have to wait a lifetime to experience their dream job. Instead, they could live the core elements of their chosen profession every single day – in so many wonderful ways. Simply by living on purpose, in present time.

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Accounting students could help their friends get a better understanding of their finances. Show their neighbours how to do their taxes.

Carpentry students could assist their family in the renovation of a kitchen.

Child and Youth care workers could volunteer at an after school program.

Nursing students could help out an elderly couple at the grocery store.

Social work students could give a seminar at a college residence about mental health.

Seniors could show first years the best spots to study on campus. Listening fully, completely to every freshman they meet.

Living your dreams. Every single day.

Using “bite size” mission statements,  I help students identify the key attributes of their dream profession.

During this exercise, students realize that “Life Purpose” is 99% about LIFE. Something they live every single day.

And that no one needs to wait one more year, one more day, or even one more moment to live life to the fullest.

Ultimately, students (and their professor) discover that Life Purpose is about following their heart, sharing their gifts, and shining their light.

One bite size dream at a time.

Related Post: Shine Your Light

Reigniting Motivation.

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I wrote this on the blackboard for my nursing students today.

This is their final week of classes. Which means one final opportunity for me to encourage their success.

This is my favourite part of teaching psychology. Every time I face a challenge, I imagine how I can translate it into a motivating lesson for my students.

Reminding students why they started nursing school is energizing. Staying inspired during final exams is galvanizing. Not giving up is the ultimate test.

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Thoughts ⇔ Motivation ⇔ Action

Transforming thought patterns is critical for student motivation and success. As what happens behind our eyes is as powerful as what happens in front of our eyes.

Reframe your thoughts. Reignite your motivation.

Instead of thinking of nursing school as an obstacle to overcome. Reframe it as superhero training. Heros save lives. And so do nurses. Every single day.

Will it be easy? No   ↑   Will it be worth it? Yes!

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 How do you reframe to reignite motivation?

Enthusiasm is contagious.

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Photo from keynote at a College Student Alliance (CSA) student leadership conference.

I believe in the power of education. Deep down in my soul. And it’s this core belief that translates into a high level of enthusiasm and excitement for student success in my classroom.

I believe so strongly in the impact of enthusiasm on motivating students, capturing their attention, and enhancing their learning that I wrote my PhD dissertation on the topic.

Education + Enthusiasm = Student Success

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What core beliefs guide your work? Your life? 💫

There will always be critics.

Use their words as motivation.

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A glimpse of my psychology lecture on student motivation and success.

The world needs your unique kind of wonderful. So don’t let the critics get you down. Focus on your dreams. Not their doubt. Use their words as fuel for your success and empowerment. The sun always rises. And so will you. ☀️

Related Post: Face it - you're strong!

10 Tips to Help you Focus Better.

This post was inspired by the one question students ask year after year:

“How can I focus better when I study?”

Focus has as much to do with what happens before you study as what happens while you are studying. Preparation is half the victory.

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1. REIGNITE your motivation.

  • Revisit why you are studying in the first place.
  • To one day save someone’s life as a nurse.
  • To protect vulnerable children from abuse.
  • To create a business that will employ displaced workers.
  • Your future self will thank you for the sacrifices you make today.

2. BORE yourself silly before you study.

  • Studying pales in comparison to relaxing on a comfortable couch watching your favourite tv show on Netflix.
  • Which is one more reason to do nothing (no television, no internet) long enough that hanging out with textbooks sounds like a party!
  • For example: Stare at a blank wall until you are so bored that all you want to do is study. No kidding!
  • The quieter your mind becomes, the better your focus will be.

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3. Create a SACRED SPACE for studying.

  • The physical act of preparing a space can be very calming for students.
  • Clear all visual clutter. Clean your room. Organize your desk.
  • Make your space a welcoming, energizing, inspirational place to be.
  • Add in vibrant colours, fresh notebooks, lightly scented candles, bright overhead lights.
  • Your studying deserves this level of respect.

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4. Prepare yourself PHYSICALLY before you study.

5. Clear out MENTAL CLUTTER.

  • Empty your mind of your to do lists, worries, and what ifs before you study.
  • Write them down and put them in a worry box to be tended to once exams are complete.
  • Repetitive thoughts running through your head could be your biggest distraction.

6. Remove ALL distractions.

  • Shut off your phone. Hide it away. Just looking at it takes up mental space.
  • And if you can’t trust yourself – lock your phone in the trunk of your car and give a trusted friend the key until you are done studying. No kidding!
  • You’ll miss it for the first 20 minutes of your study session, then you’ll forget all about it.
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time.

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7. Be an ACTIVE studier.

  • Do not passively read the textbook – you will fall asleep, I guarantee it!
  • Instead, engage with the material.
  • Get active. Make the chapter come alive!
  • Do practice tests. Read the textbook chapters out loud.
  • Have a classmate or friend quiz you.
  • Teach the subject to someone, anyone!

8. Be slightly UNCOMFORTABLE while you study.

  • Do not sit or lie on your bed when you study.
  • Sit up straight in an office chair.
  • Keep the temperature cool.
  • Be slightly uncomfortable.
  • This will help keep you alert and awake.

img_00209. Take frequent MOVEMENT breaks.

  • Study breaks are optimal at 5-15 minutes in length.
  • Study sessions should not be longer than 45 minutes at a time.
  • And when you take your breaks aim to burn off your restless energy.
  • Move!  Sing a song. Draw a picture. Clap out loud!
  • Open a window. Smell fresh air. Go outside. Hug a tree!

10. REWARD yourself… eventually!

  • Use the Premack Principle to reward yourself.
  • Delayed gratification can be an excellent tool for sustaining attention and motivation.
  • Make a list of all the things that are distracting you from studying and use them as rewards once all your studying is done.
  • Go to Starbucks as a reward for studying, not as your location to study. (Too many distractions!)
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time and you’ll have a special treat to look forward to when all your hard work is done.
  • Your success is worth the wait!

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