Paula Williams: Positivity is good medicine for new year

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 02:33 AM

It is a new year, and many of us, including myself, may need an “attitude adjustment” as we look at conquering the tasks before us.  You may be wondering the same thing about your job that I am:  When and how did teaching get so complicated?  How did life in the 21st century get so very complicated?
Multitasking has become the nature of today’s jobs in so many fields.  I think I would lose my sanity if I lost my “To Do” list for each day.  I am finding as I get older, however, that working 9- and 10-hour days is a stretch for even the most accomplished multitasker and for me, in particular.
So what’s the answer for those of us feeling overwhelmed and overworked?  I think it comes down to positivity. It’s the “is the glass half-full or half-empty” question.  It’s all in perspective.
As a teacher, I have found that most students have very little tolerance for negativity.  It only takes a few critical or sarcastic comments to turn off a student, and it’s a long, hard road to get them back.  In fact, many schools in our Guilford County school system have adopted Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) in an effort to change the learning climates of our schools. 
The basic tenet of PBIS is the ratio 4:1.  Teachers make an effort to give each and every student four positive comments before ever giving them a correction.  Yes, that’s a tall order to do on a daily basis.  But it truly makes a difference for even the “toughest” students.  Positivity is the key in schools and in life.
In the book, “The Psychology of Gratitude,” Dr. Robert Emmons notes that people who write down the things they are grateful for every day have stronger immune systems, more happiness, and less reaction to negative events. He says gratitude is an appreciation of your life right now versus where you want to be.  I think that type of quick daily journaling would be a great lesson in perspective, and I challenge you to give it a try.  And remember this:  If you have nothing to be grateful for, check your pulse.
Proverbs 17:22 says:  “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”  The value of maintaining a healthy and positive attitude cannot be underestimated.
So start working on your list.  I am thankful I have a job (even though it wears me out most days) and wonderful colleagues with which to work.  I am thankful for my amazing family.  I am grateful for the freedom to write my opinion in this newspaper every other week without censure.  And I pledge to do my best to be a more positive person in 2013.  How about you?

Paula Gulledge Williams lives in High Point and teaches at Pilot Elementary School in Greensboro. Her columns appear on this page every other Thursday. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.