273. North of Neutral

Reports of student mental health concerns have been rising steadily during the last few years. The traditional approach is to assist those dealing with these concerns only after they have been reported. In this episode, Amy Bidwell joins us to discuss an alternative approach that focuses on strategies that can help our students improve their ability to thrive, even under adverse conditions.

Show Notes

  • A video in which Christpher Peterson described positive psychology.
  • Martin Seligman
  • Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Positive emotions broaden and build. Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 47, pp. 1-53). Academic Press.
  • PubMed
  • Felten, P., & Lambert, L. M. (2020). Relationship-rich education: How human connections drive success in college. JHU Press.


John: Reports of student mental health concerns have been rising steadily during the last few years. The traditional approach is to assist those dealing with these concerns only after they have been reported. In this episode, we explore an alternative approach that focuses on strategies that can help our students improve their ability to thrive, even under adverse conditions.


John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.

Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…

John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer…

Rebecca: …and features guests doing important research and advocacy work to make higher education more inclusive and supportive of all learners.


John: Our guest today is Amy Bidwell, an associate professor and the chair of the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness at the State University of New York at Oswego. Welcome back, Amy.

Amy: Thank you, John. Thank you, Rebecca.

Rebecca: Today’s teas are… Amy, are you drinking tea?

Amy: I had tea earlier. And I was going to show you my mug but you can’t really see it anyways, It’s called Be Well, but it was a new raspberry green tea that I got for Christmas. Very good actually.

Rebecca: That sounds good. How about you, John?

John: And on a similar theme, mine isn’t so much “be well,” but it is a blueberry green tea.

Rebecca: Mine at least sounds well. It’s the Hunan Jig.

Amy: I don’t know what that is.

Rebecca: It’s a black tea that has some blonde tips in it. That’s pretty tasty.

Amy: Wow, I was thinking, the blueberry one, lots of antioxidants. That’s good.

John: We’ve invited you here to discuss some strategies that can be used for anyone to improve their morale during these relatively challenging times. Could you talk a little bit about some strategies that people can use to improve their general mood?

Amy: Definitely. Thank you, John. Thank you, Rebecca, for having me. One thing that I would love to just start with is the fact that we all know generally what we’re supposed to do to stay well, yet, we aren’t exactly well, especially right now. And so I think the approach that I take from this is slightly different in a sense, where it really looks at the overall person in terms of more, how do we thrive in life? Not “are we healthy?” Because that’s one thing. Yes, we’re drinking our blueberry tea. But are we actually thriving in life? Are we happy in life. And I think that there’s a distinct difference there. There’s the “I’m healthy,” and “I’m well.” And if you go to the doctor, and you get a good, clean checkup, and your cholesterol is good, and your blood pressure is good, you walk out and you’re like, “Ah, good, I’m healthy,” but are you well? and that’s really the perspective that I take. Because if you look at overall health, it really looks at “are all of your measurements healthy?” But what thriving really looks at is we really want to stay with what we call “north of neutral.” And Christopher Peterson is a huge researcher, he has since passed, that really put this into the forefront, which is how do we stay north of neutral? So the typical kind of treatment method of health is to make sure that we’re treating any sort of issues so that you can be healthy. Well, staying north of neutral is really developing skills in your toolbox, resources in your toolbox, to allow yourself to stay healthy and well, so that when adverse things happen, like major pandemics, your body, your mental state, your physical state, can actually absorb that trauma and that stress and be able to handle it and still be considered well. And that’s really the difference. So if we look at a treatment method, from more of the traditional psychological perspective, really take somebody that may have some mental health issues, disorders and then treat them to get them at that zero baseline. So we go from maybe a negative seven, where we have some sort of mental health disorder, to a zero, but then when a pandemic hits, or something as simple as a nasty email that pops into your inbox just really bothers you, right? So you’re now at a zero and then you went back to your negative. We don’t want that negative, right? So if we can keep people north of neutral, and so again, at maybe a positive six, positive seven, when they get that nasty email, it might pop them to maybe a four, but they’re still on that positive side. And so that’s really that difference. And obviously, when you have significant trauma, a death in the family, a pandemic, loss of job, those are going to impact your overall well being much more. But again, if you can stay north of neutral, it still won’t get you to that zero or negative side. And so a lot of the tools and strategies that I have researched myself, but there’s actually an enormous amount of research… I counted this morning, I have 77 articles on my computer right now that are waiting for me to do a systemic review on. I haven’t done it yet. They’ve been sitting there and they’re going to get done soon. Martin Seligman is kind of the founder of positive psychology in the modern day, and he was, I believe it was in 96ish, he was the American Psychological Association president for a year and that’s when he really started working with Christopher Peterson and kind of looked at this phenomenon of north of neutral. And why are we focusing so much on treatment, when we could actually be focusing on prevention? So he started this positive psychology movement, which has since really turned into more the study of human flourishing. Some of the theory that Martin Seligman came up with is this theory of wellbeing that looks at PERMA. And what PERMA is, is positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishments, and then since over the past 10 years, vitality has been attached to that. But what that is, is those are those six components that an individual must have in order to truly flourish and thrive in life. So staying north of neutral. And what I’ve really been researching is those six aspects, and I’ve actually used them in my classroom a lot.

Rebecca: One of the things that we’re always thinking about is, and we’ve talked a lot about mental health challenges that our students are facing and also burnout [LAUGHTER] that faculty are facing from addressing a lot of the urgency around the pandemic, and you’re talking a lot about moving to north of neutral, I think many of us are feeling like AAAHHHH, [LAUGHTER] still having a lot of stress. So what are some strategies to help us as faculty and staff maybe stay north of neutral or get a little above neutral so that we are able to handle the stressors of our everyday jobs and the added stress of working with other people?

Amy: Rebecca, that’s a great question. There’s many answers, but the easiest that everybody can do right now is social media. So what I mean by that is, I don’t know what the percentage is, but John, you probably have this stat somewhere, the percentage of negative comments that are on social media versus positive. My number one recommendation is, and I did this myself, I have completely gotten off social media. Now, when I say that, I still use Pinterest once a while, I’m not sure if that’s considered social media, but I do have a backyard I’m trying to landscape. But when you get up in the morning, everybody grabs their phone to turn their alarm off, you need to put that phone right back down. A lot of the research says that for the first hour that you’re awake, no technology… imagine that, like John, comprehend that one. He’s thinking, nope, that’s not gonna happen. [LAUGHTER]

John: We’ll see. I’m mostly just on Facebook and Twitter, and that’s only positive material, [LAUGHTER], as I’m sure you’ve experienced too.

Amy: Which is why I don’t have Facebook and Twitter anymore. [LAUGHTER] And honestly, it’s funny, because I’ve had this conversation with people about Facebook. And of course, you know, in my generation, that’s kind of what it was. My daughter does Snapchat, but I’m the Facebook generation. So the thing is, even if you go on today, and you see your best friend in this beautiful Caribbean vacation, it’s supposed to be something happy, right? Well, not so much. Because as I’m sitting in my office, I’m looking at a rainy gray sky. So immediately, my emotion has now changed. And ironically, as I’m miserable looking out my window, because it’s gray and gloomy out, I just received an email from someone berating me about something I didn’t do. So now I’ve just gotten a little bit higher, and it just compiles and then I have someone knocking on my office door… this isn’t really happening… but someone knocking on my office door asking more from me. And it’s like, AAhh, I can’t do it. And all this started with looking at my friend’s Caribbean vacation. And again, there’s a ton of research to support how our emotions are affected the second we wake up. So another tool that’s really great… and I got my students to do this… is okay, your alarm goes off, you turn the alarm off, you turn your phone off, you’re not gonna get on technology. Before you get out of bed, visualize your day. So for instance, Rebecca, you had already mentioned that you have three recordings on Friday. So immediately that’s stress, right, the immediate stress that that can cause. I’ll use a different example. I unfortunately had a cousin pass away unexpectedly a few months ago. And all of a sudden, I found out I had to drive my mother to North Carolina. So in a car for 12 hours with my mother, just the two of us. And it was like, “Okay, the next day we had to go.” And so when I woke up in the morning, I immediately visualized what my day could look like, not what I’m thinking it might look like but what do I want it to look like? And so by doing that, the second you wake up, visualizing the good in your day, instead of “Oh my gosh, I have five meetings, three recordings. I have to sit in the car for 12 hours with my mother,” those types of little tiny things are things that can really help us

Rebecca: I think in a time of great distress, little things are always a good first step, for sure.

Amy: And that’s what it’s a lot about, is these little things. And when people think of positive psychology and the science of happiness, they kind of immediately go to oh, “let’s just walk in a room and be happy.” It’s not that at all, it’s these little tiny things. And again, it starts with the second you wake up in the morning. A tool that I used with my students, that was amazing, first time I ever did it this November, right before Thanksgiving break, I had them all sit in class and write a letter to someone that they’re grateful for, and grateful letters, they have been researched for the last few decades of the importance of positive emotion. But the kicker was they had to write it, then when they went home, they had to go to the person’s house, stand there and read it to them. They said it was literally life changing. And not only that, the research shows that doing grateful letters or gratefulness, the impact over a long period of time is substantial. And so that’s a really great simple, simple thing that we can do to help improve our day-to-day emotions.

John: And even just reflections on things to be grateful each day have been shown to be effective in improving overall happiness and satisfaction.

Rebecca: If we all start with a little more gratitude, we probably will be much happier when we’re around other people and [LAUGHTER] we’ll spread the gratitude-ness. [LAUGHTER]

Amy: But Rebecca, what you said, that’s actually scientifically proven, that if the three of us are in a room together, and I come in in a more positive mood, it immediately affects you too. And so I have really changed as a department chair. Unfortunately, when I took over as department chair COVID hit the next semester. So my whole experience as chair has essentially been putting band aids on things. But the first 18 months or so I would walk in a room like a chicken with my head cut off. And what happens is that vibe is now spread across my conference room. Since I started taking this nine-month training that I was granted funding through SAMSHA and the Counseling Center to basically learn the scientific study of human flourishing, I have completely changed my approach to meetings. And it’s something as simple as my attitude walking through the door. I’m not rushed. I’m not flustered. It completely changes the vibe of your staff.

REBECCAS: …or of a classroom, I am sure.

Amy: Yes, and I haven’t mastered the art of getting to class early yet. At some point I will. I get there on time, but definitely not early. I agree with that 100%, and I certainly can share some ideas of things to use in the classroom as well.

John: You started with an acronym, maybe if you could talk a little bit about each of the components and provide an example of how each component can be used in practice.

Amy: Definitely. So, again, PERMA-V. So P is positive emotion. And that’s really where most of the research is at this point. And this is something in the classroom that can be really important because if we look at Barbara Fredrickson’s research on broaden and build, there is so much research on changing the attitude of the classroom the second you walk in to more of a positive state. It could be that, and I was just discussing this with someone earlier on a meeting, having each person go around and just quickly yell out one thing that they’re grateful for that day. Now, obviously, John, in your 400 Student economics class that might take some time. With that said, if you just, once a week or twice a week, have three people randomly do it, it keeps people on their toes. And that immediately changes the vibe of the classroom, which then increases those individuals’ ability to learn and retain information. So the positive emotions, there’s a ton of research with that, from an employee/faculty idea is this kind of negativity bias. And again, that’s something that’s been studied a lot. And that’s the thought of going in with that negative emotion. So I’m walking into a staff meeting, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we have another meeting about meetings. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to listen to this person just sit on their soapbox.” So going in with a positive attitude and saying, “I’m excited to see my colleagues again,” really changes things up. The next one is engagement. And this is where you are in a situation where you are 100% engaged in what you’re doing. And so I can just see looking at John and Rebecca they’re just totally engaged with what I’m saying.

Rebecca: And so you only can see that because we’re on video while we’re recording [LAUGHTER]

Amy: But, you were so engaged with what I’m saying, I’m sure. And I know everybody that listens to the Tea for Teaching is very much engaged in what they’re listening to. And so think of something that you can do every day where you completely lose track of time. For me, it’s reading, I just absolutely love to read. I’m going to say actually, it’s also going down the research black hole on PubMed. But those are the things where you completely lose track of time. Your classroom, you want to give students activities or something that they can do where they actually are so engaged that they lose track of time, which I don’t know if anyone’s really mastered that yet, but we’ll get there. Relationships, research shows that social wellness, in fact, a lot of the COVID research now they’re saying that the social isolation that we experienced during COVID was more detrimental to our health than obesity. So I find that interesting. Relationships from a college perspective, one of the number one reasons students leave college, they don’t feel socially connected to the campus. We have to provide relationships. So breaking down those barriers with our students where the professor is up here and students down here, we want to try to create those relationships where the students understand that it’s not just this person speaking to us, but they’re with us.

Rebecca: It seems like the Relationship-Rich Education book would be a great resource for people to tap into to think about ways and roles that relationships play in a positive affect towards their college or university.

Amy: In fact, when I was reading that book, I was part of that book club, it was almost like I was reading a book on human flourishing, it was spot on; everything that they said was spot on. So I agree with that. Meaning… meaning is “What is your overall purpose in life?” And I do this with my students, especially with first-year students. Okay, what do you want to do when you graduate? Okay, I want to be an engineer, I want to be an economist. But what is your passion? What is your purpose? In 10 years from now, when your alarm goes off on a Monday morning, after a long weekend, do you jump out of bed? Or do you say, “Uh, I gotta go collect my paycheck.” You want to do something that truly brings you some sort of purpose or meaning. For me, it’s helping my daughter with her homework. That’s not much. But that gives me a sense of purpose. Accomplishment… we all know we need this, not to say that we give everybody a trophy, but we need to experience some sort of excellence or accomplishments. And this goes back, John, I know you’ve talked a lot about low stakes-grading and low-stakes assignments. Students need that, because it’s giving them that little touch of positivity, that touch of achievement. Accomplishment increases their emotions. And then the last one is vitality. This is what we hear about when we think of well-being. This is our health. This is our mental health. This is our physical health. This is getting enough sleep, decreased stress. But in general, like I said, the PERMA-V theory of well-being states that we should experience all of these each day. And it can be in small amounts, very small amounts, something as simple as actually saying hi to the person at Dunkin Donuts, instead of just saying hi, it’s like, hi, like look them in the eye, something as simple as that can increase positive emotion.

John: How have students responded when you’ve discussed some of these strategies in your classes?

Amy: It’s interesting, because if you ask my students what positive psychology is… actually, they would know because I do use that term a lot. But half the time they don’t even know what they’re doing, like in terms of “Oh, this is actually increasing my happiness,” or “this is actually making me feel fulfilled.” And so in my first-year course, in my Be Well course, I probably, if I had to take a guess, about 15 activities throughout the semester that I incorporate that are specifically evidence-based activities and resources that I implement. And in fact, I am currently collaborating with a group from the UK to implement the exact same resources and activities in both communities, both schools. But the students, because I actually did evaluate the effectiveness of it… it’s amazing. And I’m not just saying that from an anecdotal perspective, I did actually do the research. I’m in the process of analyzing the data right now. And we did some mixed methods analysis to look at: 1. did it actually help improve their ability to flourish and thrive? So we’re using evidence-based validated surveys to measure this. And then we’re also doing qualitative data where we’re doing some semi-structured interviewing and looking at the themes that are being pulled and one thing that always kept coming to the top was this theme of this positive emotion in the classroom. So the atmosphere that I portrayed, but in my class, it’s slightly unique… so I do have coaches that I use and their attitude in the classroom. And one thing that we did in almost all of our classes is the one thing that you’re grateful for. That was something that we did all the time that they absolutely loved. But the visualization that we used to do, we would spend the first five minutes of class journaling. And I know this isn’t feasible in all classes. But even if you did two minutes of journaling, by visualizing, what is the rest of my day going to look like? Because again, if you sit there and say, “Oh, my gosh, I have three more classes today,” there goes that emotion. And so we visualize “What does this day look like?” Yes, you have three classes after this. But let me write down and visualize how I can actually make this day look a little better. It sounds superficial, but it had huge impact on them. The low-stakes assignments they really liked, because of that sense of achievement was really, really important. The social connections… and again, I don’t teach large classrooms, the largest I’ve ever taught was 50 students… so I don’t know what this could look like in a large group setting, but they really loved having this kind of collaborative group that they were able to text and become friends with, that really enhanced the relationships. So those are some of the main themes. I would say stay tuned, because my colleague Jessica Harris and I are literally in the midst of writing a paper that will be submitted by the end of the month on all the data that we’ve collected on this whole positive psychology in the classroom.

Rebecca: I’m curious, Amy, about some initial resistance that you might get from some students, and then maybe they try it, and it works well. And how you might counter some of that initial resistance that you might get.

Amy: Great question. And I will tell you that 90% of the time, I have resistance, so I’m not going to pretend that this is all happy-ology. It’s not, it is difficult, and I would say you just keep doing it. So, for instance, one thing you’re grateful for, it’s like, “ah…Mom, really?” and they all say “Oh, my family, my friends.” Well, then I take that off the table, and it makes them dig a little deeper. But this is the thing, Rebecca, is I don’t need to keep reiterating the importance because they do it once and they feel it, they actually feel the change that it has in their emotions. There’s a great tool… I would love to do this… I’ve yet to do this in my class… but, I went to a happiness retreat two years ago. And one of the activities that we had to do, and these were complete strangers, we had to stare into the individual’s eyes for five minutes. I mean, you could blink it wasn’t like a game, but you literally just stare into their eyes, the emotion that comes up with that is intense. And so you just do this once, and the students feel it, they feel the change that it has in their emotion, and they buy into it. But no doubt, resistance is there. It’s just a matter of “Guys, let’s just play along, play along with me, try this out. Let me know what it feels like.” Meditation… I would do it with meditation. I’d say it got the most resistance with that. But we worked around it. And now I think there’s probably more students in the class that meditate than not.

John: One criticism of positive psychology and also the research on grit and on growth mindset is that it’s sometimes accused of being a very western individualistic approach, which ignores the role of society in influencing happiness and economic inequality. And the fact that some people are in really difficult circumstances, and it assigns responsibility for their happiness to them, when there are societal influences. Given those concerns, why might it still be worthwhile to work on these things?

Amy: Great question. And the importance of that question in this day and age is huge. The research shows that anywhere from about 40 to 50% of our overall happiness is genetically influenced. Then we have about 10% that is affected by our circumstances. So our financial circumstances, our socioeconomic circumstances, where we live, but there’s about 40% that is in 100% our control, so there are controllable factors. And so there is no doubt that if you are struggling financially, and I know during COVID we had lots of people losing jobs, but just from an equity perspective, you still have 40% that’s in your control on your day-to-day activities, in your day-to-day actions. And there’s a lot of research about happiness and money. And John, you probably know more about that than I do being an economist. And I don’t know if this is still the case, I know at one point, they said that as long as your overall needs are met, that any additional financial gain doesn’t necessarily bring happiness, I have since read things that are kind of saying the opposite.

John: The original research on thst was a little bit flawed in that it was treating the impact of additional income as being a linear effect, so that $1,000 increase in income would have the same effect on someone whose income was $10,000 a year as it would for someone who was making $1.5 million a year. And it turned out that for higher incomes, the same dollar increase did not yield as much of an effect. However, once they use a log transformation and they looked at percentage changes that broke down. And it turned out that, in most of the studies that I’ve seen, it’s a percent change in income which matters. So it takes much more income to make a really wealthy person happier than it does for a poor person. But when you allow for that, income seems to be extremely important, but also so does relative income. Because, in general, when societies become wealthier, people often will revert back to their original happiness when there’s a sudden change in income. But in general, at any given time, an increase in income, will improve happiness, but it’s the percent increase in income that seems to matter the most.

Amy: That definitely makes sense, and one of the things that we study in this human flourishing realm is the hedonic treadmill. And so this hedonic treadmill really kind of gets at what you were just saying, and from a financial perspective, and going back to your original question, from a financial perspective, money can buy happiness in a sense, where if it’s pouring rain out, and I have to walk to campus versus getting an Uber. If I have the money to get an Uber, then I’m going to be happier, because now I’m not soaking wet. But what this hedonic treadmill says is this kind of setpoint that we have, so we get a new job, and we get a 20% increase in a raise, we are happier for a momentary period of time, but we go back down to that setpoint. And that setpoint might be a little higher now, because our financial status has changed. But it’s that whole idea of keeping up with the Joneses. If we start to make more money, we live in different areas we associate possibly with different people, and so now your setpoint has actually increased. But does your happiness correlate with that? And research says no, because you get back down to that set point where, “Okay, it’s great, I got a 20% raise, but now I want this $100,000 car instead of the $40,000 car.” And so we’re constantly reaching for that next best thing. And if we look at it from that perspective, it doesn’t matter what your financial situation is, it doesn’t change the fact that you have control over 40% of your happiness on a day-to-day basis. And the research has shown that it’s the small wins that you have every day that create more happiness than these larger wins, where I just was promoted to tenure, or I just got this new car, that space that brings you back down, whereas our every day strategies that we can use is what really going to make a difference. So again, that’s in our control. And it’s really unrelated to our financial or socioeconomic status. Because, again, if we use example of getting up in the morning and staying off social media, that has nothing to do with anything other than your controllable factors.

John: And also, as individuals, we’re not going to be able to eliminate the inequities in our society, but we can perhaps try to make lives better for ourselves and for the people around us, including our students.

Amy: And I think of the negativity bias as soon as you said that, because I can think of a handful of students where when they tell me their stories, I want to cry, because they’re so deep, and they’re so intense, and they struggle so much, and where they are, I just want to give them a hug because I’m so proud of where they are. But what makes one person who’s from the exact same background struggle when somebody else from that exact same situation thrives and is resilient. And I think a lot of it’s this negativity bias where you come into your space, your classroom, wherever it is, with this thought of “Woe is me, I’ve been given these bad circumstances, I’m not going to thrive. I can’t do this.” Whereas another individual that has those same circumstances walks into the room and says, “I am so grateful for this opportunity, I am going to take full advantage of it and thrive in this community.” And so I think that’s really where we get into this individualistic change in response.

Rebecca: And I think that there is that community aspect that you’re mentioning too of relationships or just how your emotional state at any given time does impact the people around you, because they’re responding to that emotional state.

Amy: Yeah, I think of all those times that I have that unfortunate poor student that decides to walk in my office right after I read a nasty email, I’m like, “Oh, man, I don’t want to take this out on you, but you’re just my first person that walks through the door.”

Rebecca: I’m sure there’s much of that that happens that we are unaware of, but maybe could be become more aware of and actively take action on.

John: You mentioned earlier issues with mobile devices and with social media. And this is one of those issues we see in our classes where students may be continuously using these things, while they perceive themselves as being focused on class as well. And yet there is a fair amount of research dealing with our ability to multitask. How do you address that with your students?

Amy: Well, I used to take the approach that probably most faculty took, which was no cell phone. Well, obviously, that doesn’t work. Because although they think they’re sneaky, they’re still sneaking them out. I have gone with more of a passive aggressive approach, which I’m actually finding is working pretty well. And it’s not passive aggressive, but in a sense, it is. I explain to them this concept of multitasking, and that you can’t multitask. If I’m speaking to you, you can’t be doing anything else. And so I go with, if you are not 100% engaged in my class, or want to be engaged in my class, you shouldn’t be here. And what I mean by that is, if you are going to check that text message, that immediately means that you’re not multitasking, which means you don’t find this classroom important enough to you. So don’t be here, I’ve yet to have anyone leave. And I will be honest with you, they all literally put their phones away. And then I tell them about the research of, even if they have their cell phone laying on the table, because you know, you’ll tell them to put it away, and they just put it on the desk and flip it over. There’s research to show the anxiety that that cell phone brings to the person next to you. Because the stress that the individual has that’s sitting next to you is thinking, “Oh, when is that person going to pick up that phone? And when is that going to now distract me because I see them picking their phone up.” And so I kind of take that approach of you can’t multitask. And it actually has helped. I would like to throw faculty under the bus with this. When we’re in meetings on Zoom, can anybody literally say that we sit there and we’re giving 100% attention to our Zoom meeting? Or do we have another screen with email on it. We’ve all been there. It’s not increasing your ability to thrive, multitasking cannot work. And this is something as simple as when you talk with your significant other, you sit there and you put everything down, and you talk to them and you look them in the eye, and it’ll immediately increase your emotion.

Rebecca: Of course, we always have students that need devices for accommodation reasons, perhaps to take notes and things or maybe a student has children and they’re sick, and you’re kind of monitoring. So there are occasions where we’re forced into multitasking, even though we know it’s not the best situation. But making people aware of how that might distract or impact others can be really helpful. I know one strategy I’ve used is encouraging people that need to be monitoring or using their devices to be more on the periphery so that they’re not right next to someone where it might be distracting,

Amy: …or cell phone breaks. I know teachers that will do a text break, a two-minute text break. I haven’t done that. And to go back to what you said, Rebecca, I have one or two times actually answered my daughter on my watch in the middle of class because if my daughter is calling me in the middle of the day, something’s wrong. I get that. [LAUGHTER]

John: And I do have to say that some of my highest productivity is during zoom meetings, when I can actually get some work done without other interruptions.

Amy: I agree, John, I so want to agree with you. And I so, so do it. So this is one of those things, do as I say, not as I do. [LAUGHTER]

Rebecca: Well, it may be that you’re just focused on the other task, right? And the other thing’s just background noise. [LAUGHTER]

Amy: That’s it. That‘s definitely it.

Rebecca: You’re not really multitasking, you’re just tasking with the illusion that you’re doing two things.

John: Right. So our names are up on the screen. And it looks like we’re focused if we have the cameras on.

Amy: …except when you see your eyes, the eyes drop because you could tell you’re reading the email lower.

John: or one of the resources shared by the presenter. [LAUGHTER]

Amy: Of course.

John: That’s a good excuse to do that.

Amy: There we go.

Rebecca: So we always wrap up by asking: “What’s next?”

Amy: What’s next? I have amazing stuff that’s coming up down the pike. I am in the midst of creating a brand new course called Thrive, which I actually I have been offering. And it’s 100% about positive psychology, it’s actually a seven-week course. And each week, we do a different aspect of PERMA-V. And I’m hoping to offer that to as many students as possible. But I’m also in the thought process in my brain of putting together some sort of training type thing to help individual faculty learn some of these strategies. And that training will probably start with a spring CELTworkshop that I might do during breakout in the spring of how to actually take what we just talked about and give you substantial resources that you can actually use. So I’m in the process of having a student work with me right now to create a website that has just drop down menus of all the resources so that people can just pull right from that and say, “Let’s do this today.”

Rebecca: Sounds like a great resource to look forward to. Thanks for joining us, Amy.

Amy: Thank you. This was great.

John: It’s always great talking to you.


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Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.