Greetings from Academy360 Upper School in Livingston, New Jersey! 

As a principal, I know school environments can be challenging, and it can be difficult for students and staff to keep a positive mindset when they are having a bad day, or problems arise. That’s why I want to let you in on a not-so-secret way to boost the morale of staff and students. Bonus, it’s easy to implement!

This year I started sending out an online Weekly Highlights newsletter to my staff at Academy360 every Sunday night. It features a “Week in Review” section where I highlight things that the staff and I are grateful for in one another, what went well during the week, and call out the staff’s character strengths that have been observed in action. 

Essentially, I, along with my staff, have adopted the Positive Psychology practices of What Went Well (practicing gratitude by asking that question), Strengths Spotting (identifying and honoring other people’s character strengths), and Showcase the Good, which is creating a space to share and celebrate good news with each other, like staff promotions.

Since the Weekly Highlights are in a Google doc, staff can easily add their contributions and observations of wellbeing practices in action. This week, we’ve already had 14 additions to the newsletter.  And it doesn’t have to be complicated! When I think back to the first day of school, I remember our highlights of What Went Well were things like welcoming students into the classroom and having umbrellas to keep us dry because it was raining! Later, I added a Jolts of Joy section that houses memes and inspiring or humorous stories. 

Recently, the online newsletter received a real-life upgrade. I added a bulletin board so staff can fill out a slip of paper to submit newsletter additions in an alternate form. The bulletin board also acts as a visual reminder of our strengths and good news. It also represented a mindset shift in that things are going well amid problems, and although we may not feel it at the moment, we are making headway in our work and with our students.

Eight months later, the school is buzzing with engagement.  I’ve noticed a new vernacular—our school community is uniting Positive Psychology skills with their actions, and we’re all using the vocabulary. Students ask their aides, “What Went Well for you today?” and say, “I used my top strength of Kindness.” Students recognize their strengths, and when a student is having a difficult time, teachers can ask, “Are you demonstrating your top strengths right now?” We’re all learning the language of Positive Psychology and the tools to help us be happier humans. 

Not only is it a huge positive boost for individuals, but it also demonstrates our teamwork and appreciation of each other. Recognizing your peers with strengths-specific praise can definitely boost your happiness in the short term, and with the use of Positive Psychology practices, your wellbeing over time. 

That’s the cool thing about Positive Psychology practices—they are additive to the work you’re already doing and can do no damage for trying them out. Wherever you are in your wellbeing journey, practicing the science and skills of happiness can move you to the next level! 

Be well.

Lynn Muir

Principal, Academy360 Upper School

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