Elementary School

Jesse Wharton ES: Unrelenting Change and The Positivity Project

By Adam Dovico

During the 2020-2021 school year there were two constants at our school: 

1) Unrelenting change and 2) The Positivity Project. 

From day to day, week to week, there was the looming uncertainty as to whether we would be in-person, remote, or some combination of both. Teachers prepared to have in-person lessons ready but simultaneously ensured that our remote learning pages were ready just in case. Families struggled along with teachers to navigate the tricky waters of online portals, virtual classrooms, and state and local assessments that were still mandated. 

But no matter the setting we were asked to be present in, our school remained unbroken in our implementation of The Positivity Project. Throughout the year, teachers relied on the daily lessons to guide the social-emotional learning component of our day. It provided consistency and comfort to the students that whether they were learning remotely with the teacher or in-person with the class, The Positivity Project was able to be used. 

And while “survival” was often the theme throughout the year, many teachers and students saw The Positivity Project as an opportunity to thrive. Stemming from the lessons, we witnessed and created extensions of learning that allowed students and staff to solidify the learning from the lessons. During the week focused on Kindness, for example, as a school, we did a Post-It note challenge, where each student and staff member received five Post-It notes. On two notes, they wrote something kind to their peers. On another two notes, they wrote a kind message to two staff members. And on the final note, they wrote something kind to themselves. Positive Post-It notes were hung throughout the building and kindness rang through the halls.

As we entered this school year, The Positivity Project was a driving influence in our newly formed “Towers,” which is a vertically aligned system that sorts students and staff into four groups, all represented with a positive character trait. In Towers, students are looking to earn points by demonstrating the character strengths that they are learning about each week during their Positivity Project lessons. The application of these attributes has been felt across the school, as witnessed recently when two fifth-grade students were caught helping a kindergarten student in their Tower by tying his shoes.

The Positivity Project has also produced opportunities for teachers to integrate the lessons into their own instruction. I was excited to witness a fifth-grader recently share how a character they were discussing from their reading text was demonstrating open-mindedness, which was The Positivity Project topic for the week. The transferability of the lessons is evident and it is encouraging for both teachers and administrators to see how this can positively impact classroom instruction.

On a personal note, I have been appreciative of the responsiveness and communication from The Positivity Project team since our partnership has begun. Anytime there has been a question or need, there is always a quick response from whoever I reach out to. I also greatly appreciate the user-friendly platform that the program provides. Even for my most technology-novice teachers, they are able to navigate the system easily and pull up their daily slides to use. Substitute teachers have also commented on how nice it is to have something easy to log into and use when they are in classrooms. 

The Positivity Project has been a great addition to our school. It has provided a spiraling social-emotional learning resource that students and teachers have become comfortable with and excited about. The program has yielded beneficial outcomes in our school culture and instruction, which will only grow as time goes on. 

Adam Dovico

Adam Dovico is the Curriculum Facilitator at Jesse Wharton Elementary in Greensboro, North Carolina.