New View EDU Episode 3: Schools and the Science of Thriving

Available August 24

Find New View EDU on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, and many other podcast apps.

It’s easy to say, “Have a good day at school!” But are we actually designing the environments that will support our students and staff in having good days?

Caroline WebbIn a world that’s only becoming more complex, simple concepts like having a good day can almost feel too rudimentary to think about. School leaders have plenty to do without worrying about who’s having a good day and who’s not. But having a good day is much more complicated—and far more important—than it seems. Some of our most talented staff are burned out. Our highest-achieving students leave the classroom uncertain about their ability to navigate the world with confidence and agency. Leadership expert, executive coach, and author Caroline Webb shares the research behind the science of thriving, and how changing your practices to help everyone have better days can fundamentally improve almost every aspect of education.

In this episode, hosts Tim Fish and Lisa Kay Solomon grapple with how weary school leaders, staff, and students can summon resilience and optimism to return to the classroom. Infusing schools with positive attitudes that instill lifelong learning dispositions, critical thinking skills, empathy, and the ability to thrive seems like a big ask. But it’s also the kind of environment we know will serve students in the long run. Caroline draws upon her extensive experience in using neuroscience and behavioral research to improve leadership practices, applying her practical methods to the school environment. 

Caroline’s suggestions for leaders are both concrete and unique. Walking through the neuroscience behind why people react as they do in certain situations, she shares how to stop negative reactions in their tracks and create positive outcomes. She also gives advice to leaders on creating welcoming, affirmative cultures that make “having a good day” more possible for everyone in the school community. And she shares the science of intentionally directing our attention so we can make the most of our time and efforts.

Key Questions

Some of the key questions Tim and Lisa explore in this interview about having a good day and understanding the science of thriving include:
  • How do we teach lasting resilience and thriving to our young people?
  • How can we deliberately reframe our practices so that we uplift “soft skills” as critical to thriving in the long term? 
  • We’ve just come through a year of heightened ambiguity and uncertainty. What can we learn from leaders who navigated it successfully? How might we bring those lessons to our leaders and learners?
  • How can school leaders encourage and deliberately design workplaces that support “having a good day?”

Episode Highlights

  • “In order to be the best leader you can be, I've seen this time and again with leaders in very challenging situations, you need to invest in yourself. You need to not see that as a luxury. You need to take the time to get to know yourself and your patterns, to take a step back perhaps and reflect on the past year and say, ‘OK, now how do I equip myself as best I can for the continued uncertainty that we're all going to face?’ ” (3:23)
  • “I'm very much a fan of things that it takes three seconds to do, because I think, you know, our lives are busy and challenging and if an intervention is complex, then there's an excellent chance that we won't end up doing it. So just simply understanding that giving someone a little bolt of appreciation has such disproportionate effects on their state of reward, and therefore their state and their ability to think expansively and in discovery mode rather than go on the defensive.” (16:56)
  • “Leaders often think they're giving plenty of praise, and they're not doing it half as much as they think, and they're not doing it in a way that is as effective as it could be.” (17:27)
  • “If I can understand what that trigger is and I can shift my demeanor, then I can shift that person back toward the arms of their better angels. That’s very useful to know.” (26:33)
  • “And it's not hard to learn it, except it is.” (31:05)

Resource List

Full Transcript

Key Takeaways

About Our Guest

Caroline Webb is an executive coach, author, and speaker known for being one of the world’s leading experts in using insights from behavioral science to improve professional life. Her bestselling book on that topic, How To Have A Good Day, has been published in 14 languages and more than 60 countries. She previously was a partner at McKinsey and co-founder of its leadership practice, and before that she was an economist working on public policy.