Some time ago, I wrote a little series called “Simple Treasures” for a friend. In it, I sent regular emails highlighting a simple treasure – the little gifts of daily life we sometimes miss in our hurried days and harried ways. I will do my best to recreate some of that here – not the same notes, of course. These will be notes geared toward educators and the art of teaching and learning.
Optimism is a simple treasure that we all have – it is a choice to see the glass half full as opposed to half empty. Optimism creates hope. One of my favorite authors says, “hope is not a naïve, sunny view of life. It is the capacity not to panic in tight situations, to find ways and resources to address difficult problems” (Michael Fullan). Optimism creates self-fulfilling prophecies. History is filled with stories of people who have overcome some of the most incredible circumstances simply because they believed they could. Optimism generates collective synergy with all those around that good things are possible. In other words, optimism breeds optimism.
The research on optimism, often conducted with people in dire situations, bears out over and over that optimists are both mentally and physically healthier – often beating odds and living longer. Data support that “a sunny outlook and a fighting spirit modulate the nervous system in a way that bolsters immune system defenses and raises the level of disease-fighting cells.”
Optimism truly is a treasure. In general, I think teachers have to remain optimistic. It’s when we lose touch with our own sense of optimism that we might need to consider another profession. Sometimes, we might be the only person in a student’s life who holds optimism out for them. There’s an expression that works here: what you think of me, I’ll think of me; what I think of me, I’ll be. Our learners need our optimism that they in turn might find this simple treasure in their own lives. After all, we are all encouraged when we experience someone’s fighting spirit to conquer challenging tasks.
Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker, says “An optimist is someone who goes after Moby Dick in a rowboat and takes the tartar sauce with him.”
As we head into this next school year, let’s row like crazy and bring the tartar sauce. Maybe we can wrap up our school year with a fish fry!