“Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow.” These are the enthusiastic words of David Shen as he learns positive psychology in our current CAPP Philadelphia cohort.
One of his clasmates, Judy VanBuren says, “These ‘wows’ sum up David as a social emotional leader in our class. He uses his ‘wows’ as a personal response to some clarity or wisdom coming his way, as well as to celebrate anything good coming our way. Either way, his ‘wows’ are a barometer for the wonderful learning and connection we experience with him in CAPP. He “wows’ us!”
On a journey beginning long before CAPP, David got his start with positive psychology “back in the day” with Seligman’s seminal works on Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness. “His ABCDE method nailed my depression-causing thoughts dead,” he says.
It is powerful content combined with earnest students like David. When the student is ready, the teacher (the lessons) appears.
“I sought Positive Psychology interventions. Gratitudes, what went well, signature strengths became embedded in my thinking and practice. My set point of happiness jumped from 4 to 6. Seligman’s book Flourishing hit the jackpot with me. Through dint of effort and luck, by February, 2015 I was flourishing — hitting all the pillars of his PERMA model.”
In the current CAPP Philadelphia class, we certainly experience the zest and love of learning David brings. He really serves as a social-emotional leader organizing events, games, gifts, and more.
David works as a math teacher – but not in a traditional way. He leads Math Corps Philadelphia, a math tutoring/mentoring program for 7-12th grade students, minorities from north and west Philadelphia. He teaches them to excel in math and in life.
He says, “The evidence from our Super Saturday Math and Summer Camp confirmed success. Our camp kids not only went from F to B+ (median scores) in 4 weeks but demanded more challenging math and some claimed math was now their favorite subject.”
One 12 year old camper pitched this for the day’s affirmation: ”For every setback, there’s a comeback.” And when asked, “What has Math Corps Philadelphia meant to you?” another replied, “happiness.”
7 years ago, David saw the PBS documentary It all adds up about Math Corps in Detroit. “By the end I was crying. I knew this is what I was meant to do, what my previous 20 years was preparation for. I visited Math Corps that summer. When I was told it was not a math program but a program of love and compassion, I was all in….This program made me come alive.”
Though camp ended July 31, he continued having awesome moments. The “Broaden and Build Theory” of PP explained this. Positive emotions provide recognition of more opportunities that led to more awesome moments that led to recognition of more opportunities…you get the idea.
His final project in the CAPP course ending this March will be an 8-lesson positive psychology curriculum for his Math Corps Philly students. Stay tuned for some “wow!”
<Student Spotlight contributed by Louis Alloro, M.ED., MAPP>