Positive Thinking, Positive Teaching

Generally, I have a positive view when it comes to positivity.

I believe it is beneficial to maintain a positive perspective. I trace the origination of my own persistently positive thinking back to the beginning of my first gap year when, coming off of a miserable freshman year of college, I had taken the plunge into the unknown. I think I recognized that a year on my own while my friends were all in school could get pretty depressing so I instinctually ignored considering negative thoughts as an option. You can’t fall into a downwards spiral if you never let yourself peak over the edge. I chose to be positive and I never looked down or back.

Positive thinking is a prerequisite for positive teaching, which I have come to believe is an effective method as a result of my own experiences reflected back at me by two of the best teachers of all-time in their respective sports, Harvey Penick in golf and Bill Walsh in football.

I am currently reading Bill Walsh’s book, The Score Takes Care of Itself. Earlier this year, I read Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book. When two legendary teachers in their respective games give advice that sounds as similar as what is to follow, it must either be really coincidental or really right. My money in this case is on the latter.

In his chapter titled, “Positive Thinking”, Harvey Penick says, “When I am teaching, I never say never and I don’t say don’t, if I can help it.” He follows, “I try to put everything in positive, constructive terms.” Harvey explains, “when you are hitting a golf shot, a negative thought is pure poison.” He doesn’t even like the phrase “give yourself the benefit of the doubt” because it “has the dangerous word ‘doubt’ in it”.

Bill Walsh says similarly, “Be positive. I spent far more time teaching what to do than what not to do; far more time teaching and encouraging individuals than criticizing them; more time building up than tearing down.” In his chapter titled “The Leverage of Language” he writes, “You demonstrate a lack of assuredness when you talk constantly in negatives. When attempting to help someone attain the next level of performance, a supportive approach works better than a constantly negative or downside-focused approach.”

Of course, teachers must not ignore negative actions or habits that must be corrected. Both Harvey and Bill share plenty of wisdom on how best to deliver constructive criticism, but the great majority of their teaching is in positive terms. Positive teaching comes from positive thinking and positive thinking comes from positive teaching. Add some positivity to the way you think, the way you talk, and the way you teach. The impact will be positive.