The Influence of Optimism - Mid-Pacific Institute

Middle School Principal's Blog

The Influence of Optimism

Posted on October 6, 2015

by Dr. Dwayne Priester on October 6, 2015

When I was transitioning to administration during my career in Education, Dr. Fred Skoglund, my former Superintendent gave me a piece of sound advice. He looked me square in the eyes, as he often did when attempting to convey a serious message, and said, "Always remember, as a principal, to see the glass as half-full." He advised me that this perspective would serve me well when confronted with the challenges associated with being an administrator. He added, "While this perspective does not always guarantee success, looking at the glass as half- empty will assure you of failure."

Consider this. True success, regardless of society's measurement of fame, money, family, possessions or happiness will never be realized when viewing the world through the lens of cynicism. Over the span of my administrative career, I have discovered, how negativity, when entertained, becomes a barrier to discovering all of the possibilities. Dr. Skoglund's message was spot on, though. Seldom, if ever, does anyone, or anything reach a point of greatness without a significant amount of hopefulness and little to no pessimism.

So, why am I sharing a message of maintaining a positive outlook? I believe that the principle of positivity is critical to our work with our students. On a daily basis, they are inundated with social media, television stories and public messages that sometimes paint negative images of education -- even one surrounding their future. Because it is easy for these messages to also creep into the thinking of educators as well, we must be careful to counter cynicism with thoughts and actions that foster positivity.

The middle-level school years are challenging times for our students. They are navigating the waters of society, academic expectations, thoughts of belonging, changes to their physical bodies and often distorted messages of who others feel they should be. Despite these challenges encountered in our work with our students on a daily basis, we have learned to see the "best" in them and enrich their lives with messages of their potential and all of the possibilities. It is important that we balance the negative forces pushing against our students by providing an environment saturated with encouragement.

I often challenge parents to remember the teachers, counselors, administrators or coaches that impacted their lives. I then encourage them to reflect on specific things that made those people so memorable. Almost always, personal characteristics such as "positive," "optimistic" or "encouraging" consistently emerge. While the work of education is designed to provide our students with meaningful and quality instruction, the manner in which information is delivered is often the thing that is remembered.