“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill. All students (and adults too) fall somewhere on a continuum of measurement, with ultimate pessimist at one end and total optimist at the other. Whilst it is not nice to be around people who are continually pessimistic it is also uncomfortable to be in the presence of a complete optimist.
Optimism is more than positive thinking; it’s a way to combat learned helplessness that is created when one approaches a challenge with a defeated mindset.
Students who manifest learned helplessness have difficulties engaging in tasks that could lead to improved outcomes. An example is: a child won’t participate in sporting drills to improve performance because they already feel as though they won’t improve. It is a defeatist mindset.
It is the adults job, (a parent or a teacher) to encourage realistic optimism. We want our children and adolescents to recognise their personal constraints and aspire to be the best they can be. Teaching young minds about optimism can help them to see unpleasant events as learning opportunities.
Ginna Myers has written about this in the article titled Tips for Teaching Realistic Optimism
She has developed four points for consideration,
- Positive reframing of a situation
- Selective focus on actions or events that lead to solutions
- Averting the unproductive self-talk
- Using humour as an antidote to negative bias
As educators and mentors for our students, we want them too to have a healthy and realistic optimism. I believe that this is mirrored by the vast majority of parents as well. Knowing the children in our care, and supporting them to reach their God given potential is one of our main goals.
If you would like to read more about realistic optimism click here
Mrs Emma Davidge / Head of Senior School