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Harbor Fifth Graders Discover the Power of Optimism

The power of optimism is getting fifth graders to think with an “I Can” attitude in Kerry Hansen’s class at Seaford Harbor Elementary School.

Ms. Hansen adopted “optimism” as this year’s theme because of the unusual circumstances. Recognizing that students were coming back to school in a different learning environment, with desk shields, masks, social distancing and other protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, she wanted to create an atmosphere where students aren’t afraid to take on challenges.

Throughout their lives, Ms. Hansen explained, they will face challenges, and the ability to overcome those hurdles will only make them stronger. Students have been incorporating lessons learned from the Diane Alber book, “A Little Spot of Optimism,” into their daily routines. When children demonstrate optimistic attitudes, they get small yellow stickers, or optimism spots, to decorate and affix to their desk barriers.

After Principal Tom Burke suggested that Harbor teachers dress up as “The Incredibles” for Halloween, Ms. Hansen said she watched the movie and was immediately struck to its strong connection to the power of optimism. Her class then watched scenes from animated movie and made posters showcasing optimistic lessons.

Students write about optimism in their social and emotional notebooks and studied figures of speech related to optimism such as “glass half full” and “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

The class created a bulletin board in the hallway with their own optimistic affirmations. Students wrote about the steps they can take to remain positive. They also made and will continue to make optimism spots to share with others around the school.

“An optimistic person finds the positives, even when surrounded by negatives,” Ms. Hansen said. “I want my students to understand that in any situation, there is always a bright spot.”