Toxic Positivity in Education, Part 1

by | Aug 30, 2020

 Toxic Positivity is the overgeneralization of a positive disposition that has the ability to minimize and/or invalidate authentic feelings.

Toxic positivity in education

all in high five

You may not know the term, but if you have been an educator for any length of time you can recognize it.

Here’s a couple of scenarios:

Scenario 1

You start a new school year during unprecedented times (pandemic, local natural disaster, and/or civil unrest) and staff sharing is focused around what fun things you did over break.

Scenario 2

You’re in a staff meeting after a major negative event has happened (school/community violence, staff firing/quitting, loss of a school member) and start the meeting by each sharing staff member sharing a positive moment from their classroom this week.

Scenario 3

You are teaching in new ways (virtual or hybrid) or in uncertain conditions (i.e. pandemic in-person teaching, maybe with pods, capsules, or cohorts). You know everyone is stressed, overworked, and concerned but the only remarks you hear are about how happy everyone is to “see” their student’s faces again.

Can you relate to any of these? Or, perhaps you have more examples.

The nitty-gritty of toxic positivity

Teacher well-being

Anecdotal evidence suggests a combination of the following has led to the spread of toxic positivity in education:

  • The expectations (and reality) that teachers are kind and understanding.
  • The mindset of teaching (a.k.a. the teacher blindspot) that “we’ll do whatever it takes”.
  • The power structure of community and administrative control over what is actually taught and how.

We see toxic positivity when staff morale is low, teacher attrition is high, and stress is palpable, and yet no one is talking about it because we’re all there for the students.

The impact of toxic positivity in education

Click to tweet

(read that again for me and let it sink in & click to tweet)

The numerous effects of toxic positivity in schools are mostly due to the lack of voice or paths it affords educators when times inevitably get tough. This effectively is combating the resilience work we do here at Joy in Teaching and there are ways to take a stand against it.

Correcting toxic positivity in education

Check out part two of this article for actionable steps to take on toxic positivity in favor of authentic and open dialogue within your school. Click here now.



The Resilient Teacher's Timesaving Guidebook

Do you want to join the growing number of educators who believe in the power of resilience?

Download your FREE copy of The Resilient Teacher’s Timesaving Guidebook
Get inspirational and actionable resources to help you reclaim the joy in Teaching

You have Successfully Subscribed!