Middle School

The Positivity Project’s Positive Impact at Smart’s Mill

By Taryn Zeidman

Smart’s Mill Middle School implemented Positivity Project (P2) during the fall of 2020 when our students began the school year in distance learning. The pre-packaged lessons were easily adaptable to the virtual learning environment, requiring very little preparation by our staff before delivering the lessons. Many of our teachers appreciated having the activities planned and ready to use because it was one less thing for them to prepare during a time when many challenges were put on teachers’ plates. After the first week of implementing P2 in the fall of 2020, one of our 8th grade English teachers shared, “I just wanted to let you know that so far, I find it extremely easy to use and my Advisory class had a great conversation yesterday about Curiosity! It has taken a big burden off of me during distance learning already, just knowing that things are ready for me to use and the kids will be engaged. Thank you!” 

Our school opted to continue with P2 this school year, which was our first time implementing the lessons to students in person. All of our students attend an Advisory class each morning where they engage in the daily P2 lesson. In each Advisory class, students and teachers are together every day throughout the school year. This continuity allows students to feel more comfortable engaging in reflective conversations and activities provided by P2, because they are with the same group of peers and staff members each day. Now that our students are back in the physical school building, our staff is seeing an even greater impact of P2 on our school community. 

One of our 6th-grade science teachers shared the impact of the P2 lessons on her Advisory class. She stated, “I’m really impressed with the way this program focuses on positivity (I know it’s in the name!) and does not fall back on giving examples of poor attitudes and poor behaviors – students already see enough of those in real life, and don’t need them reinforced.  This is probably one of the better programs I’ve ever been involved in implementing, and the productive discussions in class are wonderful to see.  The best lessons are the ones that have a great video and discussion prompts that encourage students to relate their experiences – these get the greatest involvement.”

The P2 lessons are valuable because there are lessons specific to each grade level, so they are tailored to be developmentally appropriate. One English teacher shared, “my Advisory class loves to have fun and can be a little goofy at times. However, when it comes to P2, the content is engaging and written at their level to the point where they always take it seriously and give thoughtful responses. Recently, we completed the Bravery word cloud and nearly every student submitted colorful pieces with the clear effort shown.” 

One of our 7th-grade history teachers highlighted that, “P2 has helped more students participate in discussions and activities because all students can connect and relate to the topic. We have also seen students socializing and working together more.” Having lessons that are relatable to students’ lives helps spark conversations between students and their peers. After more than a year of distance learning, P2 is helping our students re-learn how to connect and collaborate with one another.

The key focus of our school administration and counseling teams at Smart’s Mill is to provide a safe, positive, and welcoming environment for all students. We incorporate themes of positivity and kindness into many school-wide initiatives and programs that we run to encourage students to treat everyone in the school building with respect. We are continually working to create a positive and supportive learning environment. Positivity Project complements these efforts well and provides a foundation where all students are beginning their day by discussing important character traits that they will hopefully exercise during their school day. We are excited to see the impact of P2 on our students, staff, and school community in years to come.

Taryn Zeidman

Taryn Zeidman is a middle school counselor at Smart’s Mill Middle School.