by Kristin Barton Cuthriell, M.Ed., MSW, LCSW
Business Leaders, Educators, and Parents……
You have more power than you may know. By truly believing in someone and encouraging their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth, they are more likely to live up to those expectations and grow in positive ways. Positive expectations and encouragement are key……
Psychotherapy presenter, author, and co-founder of solution focused therapy, Bill O’Hanlon, was giving a talk several years ago to a school district about the Pygmalion Effect, a theory coined by psychologist, Robert Rosenthal. According to the Pygmalion Effect, we can bring our expectations to life in others. During O’Hanlon’s talk, counselors and teachers began sharing with him a real life story about the power of positive expectancy.
It seems that one year, there was a class of students who were so difficult to control that two teachers actually resigned. This class was so challenging that substitute teachers began to refuse to take it. So the school system offered the job to a teacher who had previously applied for the position and had not made the cut. They told her that if she would finish out the year, she would have a full-time position the following year. She did not hesitate and was hired.
The principal decided not to warn the teacher about the class, afraid that she would be scared off if she heard what she was up against. After the new teacher had been on the job for a month, the principal sat in the class to see how things were going. To his amazement, the students were well-behaved and enthusiastic. After the students had filed out of the classroom, the principal stayed behind to congratulate the teacher on a job well done. She thanked him but insisted that he deserved thanks for giving her such a special class, such a great class, for her first assignment. The principal was perplexed and told her that he really didn’t deserve any thanks.
She laughed and told him, “You see, I discovered your little secret on my first day here. I looked in the desk and found the list of the student’s IQ scores. I knew I had a challenging group of kids here, so bright and rambunctious that I would have to work to make school really interesting for them because they are so intelligent.” She slid the drawer open and the principal saw the list with students’ names and the numbers 138, 129, 150, 145, and so on written next to the names.
He paused for a moment and then explained, “Those aren’t their IQ scores; those are their locker numbers!” It was too late. The teacher had expected the students to be bright and gifted and they had responded positively to her positive view and her positive handling of them.
Recommended reading: Bill O’Hanlon’s book, Do One Thing Different
Bill O’Hanlon and Bob Bertolino The Therapist’s Notebook on Positive Psychology