October Blog


Edward DeRoche, Director

“You’ve got to Accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative…!”
-Song and lyrics by H. Arlen/J. Mercer

Last July, I read Neville Billimoria’s issue of “Soul Food Friday” in which he suggested that we read a book by Jon Gordon titled The Positive Dog: A Story About the Power of Positivity. (

I bought the book and read it. The book is about positive thinking. It reminded me of a very popular book that I read years ago, Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.

What is positive thinking? In short, it means “approaching life’s challenges with a positive attitude, making the most out of bad situations, seeing the best in other people, and viewing oneself in a positive light.”

Gordon’s book is a story about two dogs both of which, he writes, are within us. The “positive dog,” Bubba is his name, is loving, kind, and optimistic. Matt, the “negative dog,” is fearful, angry, and pessimistic. Gordon urges us to feed the “positive dog” and starve the “negative dog.”

This “positive-negative” story is similar to the Cherokee Indian’s parable in which a grandfather is talking with his grandson and says that there are two wolves inside us which are always at war with each other. One of them is a good wolf, which represents things like kindness, bravery, and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear. The grandson stops and thinks about it. Then turns to his grandfather and asks, “Grandfather, which one wins?” The grandfather quietly replies, “The one you feed.”

As a teacher you are probably asking yourself two questions: Why do I want to create a classroom of students who are positive thinkers? And, How will I do it?

There are two reasons (and probably more) to the Why question. One relates to the culture of your classroom. Students will do better when they are aware of the two “dogs” in themselves. Like any skill, positive thinking techniques need to be practiced to be effective. They need to be modeled (by you and others). They need to be imitated. They need to be acknowledged.

Being an effective classroom manager is the second reason. If students are taught to communicate in positive ways, to reflect on what they say and do, to value positive relationships, and demonstrate behaviors (words, actions) that empower them, research shows that these students will have fewer emotional problems, get better grades, and be more positive about their behaviors and relationships.

With regard to the How question, Gordon offers several suggestions that you can modify for your efforts to promote positivity in your classroom. He writes about the “positive boomerang”—“feed the positive dog” and you benefit yourself and others. Being positive not only changes you (the teacher), it changes everyone around you (students, colleagues).

I would remind you that classroom relationships are developed and tested daily, that challenges create opportunities, complaints may be the basis for solutions, and wrong choices should lead to second chances.

Gordon notes that both positive and negative energy are “contagious” and that “negative energy serves a purpose.”

“If you didn’t have negative experiences, you would never be able to appreciate the positive ones.” He adds, “Negativity builds character and strength when we use it to build positive and emotional muscle.”

In a chapter called “Feed the Positive Dog: Action Plan,” Gordon suggests that we feed the “positive dog” by “practicing gratitude—take 10 minutes each day and make a list of what you are thankful for.”

He also talks about “reaching out to others” and “deciding to make a difference.” Gordon recommends ‘”focusing on the get to vs. the have to, smiling more, writing thank-you notes, associating with positive and uplifting people, starting a “success journal” in which you (and your students) write down the one great thing about the day.

You may remember “The Positive Teacher Pledge” that appeared in my September Blog (

I repeat the first four bullet points that underscore “positivity.”

  • I pledge to be a positive teacher and positive influence on my fellow educators, students, and school.
  • I promise to be positively contagious and share more smiles, laughter, encouragement and joy with those around me.
  • I vow to stay positive in the face of negativity.
  • When I am surrounded by pessimism, I will choose optimism.At the very least, put this on your bulletin board:

    In this classroom: “Positive attitudes fuel; Negative attitudes drain! “

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