Guest Post: Inspiring Students to be Brilliant – Top Tips for busy teachers

Darrell Woodman is completing a Master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology which, I guess, makes him a happiness expert! Daz works with businesses and schools to spread the message that life is too short to live it in black and white when it can be lived in FULL COLOUR! He is the co-author of the brand new book, The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager (published by Capstone) and, as luck would have it, he has two teenagers…

For many years I have been delivering our simple, fun and thought-provoking training courses in businesses up and down the country. The workshops are based on something called ‘positive psychology’ (posh name for the science of happiness) and my aim is to rejuvenate, re-energise and remind people that life’s too short to be mediocre. And, I have to say, it’s very good stuff.

Then in 2009 we started working with a group of totally different individuals; individuals who all shared one thing in common – they were teenagers! And we thought, wouldn’t it be fab if we could tweak our flagship programme, The Art of Being Brilliant, and deliver it for kids. So we did. And we failed, sometimes epically. So we started again and failed less epically, and again, until we crafted something that, we think, is spot on.

Since then we have worked with thousands of students from year 5 to year 13, and university students too. And while teenagers are invariably a tougher crowd than business folk, this is where our hearts truly lie. Delivering positivity, happiness, resilience and confidence to young people is simply the right thing to do.

One of the biggest things we’ve learned is that great schools have vibrancy. And energy. You can feel it as you step through the door. And that’s down to the staff. Despite the massive pressures of league tables, attainment and Ofsted, some staff retain an effervescence and enthusiasm and that folks, is contagious.

However, how often have you found yourself thinking:

“If he/she would only believe in themselves more?”

“If only they would put a bit extra effort into their work, their grades could go through the roof.”

In essence, we find that teachers often want their students to succeed more than the student themselves! For all the great work that goes on in school and the effort that goes into planning lessons, there is something missing. And it’s always been missing, at least in the sense that it doesn’t feature on the curriculum. That thing? ‘Thinking’

Who taught you how to think? (Let that soak in for a minute)

You probably came to the answer that it was your parents. Or your grandparents? But did they? Did your mum and dad ever sit you down at an early age and say ‘Look here sonny Jim, this is how you need to think to maximise your potential…’ I reckon it’s unlikely that that conversation took place in your house, it certainly didn’t in mine (although I do recall an embarrassingly fumbled attempt at the birds ‘n’ bees).

And, when I checked my school timetable for the day ahead, I can’t recall a time where I saw ‘English, then science, then PE, then oohhhh great double ‘thinking’ this afternoon!’

Nope. I don’t believe anyone ever taught you how to think. I think you (just like everyone else) made it up. Your thinking developed early doors, into habits. And it’s those thinking habits that are still with you today.

So, if you boil down The Art of Being Brilliant to the bare bones, it’s about introducing you to a better way of thinking. And by ‘better’, I mean ‘life changing’. And guess what? It really works!

So, how cool would it be if we could devise a way of getting young people to adopt more upbeat, flourishing mind-sets, early on. What if they didn’t have to go through the Kevin and Perry grunting phase? And what if they could learn stuff that would set them up for life? So we wrote a book, with lots of pictures (so boys might read it), some fun stuff and, hidden in there somewhere, some absolute gems about how to think differently.

This is how we sum it up:

Let’s not pull any punches. The bottom line is this – it’s easy to be yourself, averagely. And an awful lot of adults’ lives have passed them by! Please don’t let that happen to you. We want you to take the world by storm. And we’re really hoping you want that too?

So, our top tip is to leave some Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager books lying around for Connor (the lost boy from year 9) or secrete a copy into Rhianna’s bag (the ice-maiden from year 10). Or simply stick it on the homework schedule. It ain’t Shakespeare, and that’s why they’ll love it.

But, hey, we appreciate budgets are tight and not every child can afford a book. So here are a couple of top tips for busy teachers, to keep your mojo in tip top shape:

  • Stop thinking Mondays are bad and Fridays are great. They’re all equal. You spend a 7th of your life on Mondays so bring your Friday attitude to work on Monday and see what happens
  • Similarly, change your mindset. Instead of attempting to ‘survive the week’, set yourself the goal of ‘enjoying the week’
  • ‘Busyness’ is hampering your brilliance. Slow down. Be mindful (no yoga or chanting required). Life is nothing more than a series of ‘now’s’. Make sure you savour the now’s. They are all you have
  • Raise your children’s brilliance by understanding that they will not do what you say but they will do what you do. So role model positivity and confidence. Any family and/or classroom is only as happy as the least happy child
  • Appreciate that your happiness is contagious. A happy friend makes you 16% happier. A happy friend of a friend increases your happiness by 10%. And a friend of a friend of a friend by 6%. Infect people with your brilliance!

Any questions, comments or feedback for Darrell? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


Capstone has kindly offered 5 copies of ‘The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager to our readers in a Twitter competition – for details click here

Brilliant Teenager book giveaway twitter banner.001


Guest posts on Schools Improvement Net

If you have an opinion, observation or experience about schools and how to make things better, please read our guidelines and contact us using this form.

Please note that a guest post does not imply any endorsement from Schools Improvement Net – we will do our best to share things that look potentially interesting or helpful but always do your own research!


Educated parents are key to school success, study finds
'Isolation room' school referred to DfE
Categories: Guest Post and Parenting.


  1. FamLearn

    SchoolsImprove #positive #psychology has a lot to offer in helping students to think and take control of their #learning and their lives

Let us know what you think...