The Power of Positive Thinking
Molly Melican, Middle School Faculty

“I can’t do THAT.” “I’m not smart enough to take that class.” “I won’t be able to make that team.” How many times have thoughts like these run through your head? For me, doubts like these creep into my mind every day. Life is full of fear, and sometimes, a little fear is good (there’s a reason why people are scared to get near bears). But fear can also hold us back from reaching our full potential. Doubt and negative thoughts can stop us from even starting to work toward our goals.

Last year, I noticed that this doubt and fear would be heard the most in my classroom on the days of tests or big assessments, even when the students were fully capable and prepared for the assignment. As I continued to hear my students verbalize their doubt and fear, I became more and more interested in how I could eliminate this negative thinking in my classroom.

When I was little, my mom stressed the importance of believing in yourself and thinking positively to my brother and me. If she heard us verbalizing doubt in ourselves (“I’m going to do so poorly on this math test today.”), she would make us rephrase our thought in a positive way and repeat it one hundred times (“I’m going to do great on my math test today”). She thought that the first step to achieving anything was believing that you can. As I was thinking about a potential solution to my negative thinking problem, these memories from my childhood started popping back up and I decided that I would bring this practice of positive self-talk to my classroom this year.

So, before each test or quiz, I have my students stand up, get into a “power pose”, and repeat positive affirmations before they start their assessment. While they giggled and rolled their eyes at first, I’ve slowly seen them lean into this practice. It’s still too early in the year to analyze if/how assessment scores have changed from this practice, but even if positive self-talk doesn’t improve scores, I think it’s important for these students to practice believing in themselves, rather than focusing on their fears.