ALL case study: Positive Education


(MUSIC)>>I’m quite negative to begin with. I’m very ‘nothing’s ever going go right’.>>I’ve struggled with self-esteem
issues for all my high school life.>>I usually see myself as…I don’t see
myself as important.>>Everything’s going to die and the world’s going to end! And no, I have no contingency plans – what is happening?!>>I don’t want someone to live an unhappy life and non-fulfilling and never reach their dreams or
ambitions. Because my role as a principal is to make it certain that we’re looking at the
whole student. Regarding mental health note that loose statics are saying one in four adolescents are suffering from a diagnosed mental health issue. Now that’s really alarming. Because we want to make certain that our students that leave school are academically achieving at their highest level of their ability. But also their mental health is actually taken care of and they’ve got the
skills and strategy to live a wonderful flourishing life. Our Positive Education
program started three years ago. We were working with the Adelaide Thinkers in Residents program with Martin Seligman and I was tasked with the opportunity of
how do we embed positive education approaches into a school. We put positive education at the same level as we do with literacy and numeracy. We’ve also worked
in partnership with Adelaide University and we developed a well-being survey tool for our high school students from (Years) 8-12. And what we can do with our approach is
actually tailor make our curriculum and our positive education approaches to
suit and support that group of students as they progress from Year 8 to Year 12.
So in our cases, not one thing fits all. It’s actually an adaptable program to cater for the individual needs of each year level as we go along. The measurement idea behind it is really crucial to make certain that our programs and our work that we’re doing in school is actually suiting and helping our students move to more, into a better frame of mind and into a better life as they leave Mt Barker High School.>>So, it means that our students are being exposed to positive education in every subject – even though they don’t know it. So for example, one of our English teachers was doing Project 365 which is an app where you take a photo of something you’re grateful for every day. So she set up a section of the pin up board in her room and asked her students to bring in photos of things that they were grateful for to share with other students. Now the reason behind that is that the research shows that we have a tendency to look at the negative and we have a negativity bias and we find looking at the positives more difficult.>>What’s really important is to train our mind to stop and reflect on the good things are going
well in our life.>>Each teacher has a different way of approaching it. In Year 10, I remember one of my Math’s teachers had us write gratitude letters and so that was a really
meaningful lesson. Half of us were in tears by the end of it, but it was a very
fulfilling lesson.>>In English every now and then, if we read a book or something we’ll have to do an essay and one of the choices might focus on our signature character strengths. We get to choose one to focus on, on how the characters have developed that or used that throughout the book. And that’s really interesting, it gets us you know, really thinking about their motivations as a character and also how we use that strength ourselves.>>They’re challenged by saying this is part of what we do at school. Aren’t we supposed to be doing maths? Aren’t we supposed to be doing English? But we’re doing stuff about character strengths? How does this work? I don’t see the connections and our role as teachers is show them the connections and how using these strategies in class will make them more successful.>>We’ve been working with our Year 9’s on positive emotions and also on having meaning in their lives. And as a part of that unit of work we put up a tree in the Year 9 area and the Year 9’s made leaves where they wrote wishes down for their futures which they’ve been hanging on the wishing tree.>>At the start we’re like ‘ugh’ why do we need positive education?>>At first there were worries, people were a bit you know, timid to right into it.>>They’re challenged by the program because it actually asks them to reflect personally on stuff they don’t sort of normally let go by, sort of thing.>>Being self-reflective makes you a very strong person.>>It allows you to be more critical of yourself in a safe environment. And an environment where you can be critical of yourself and go ‘I’m terrible at this’, ‘I’m bad at that’. But then you sort of have your positive education in place so it sort of kicks in a goes ‘well you may be bad at this and terribly at that, but you could be better at this if you tried and you pushed yourself to do it more’.>>The fact that they think now or know now – sorry—that can actually take a positive approach and do something for themselves in a positive way has been really empowering to the students. Rather than, ‘we’re sad, we’re depressed, we don’t really don’t know what to do’, they’ve actually now got some skills, some tools in the toolbox that they can actually take forward.>>What I would say right now is that students are getting meaning.>>It’s definitely made me think of things differently which I think is one of the major points of the positive education movement. To make kids be taught to be self-aware and so they can go ‘I’m being negative, I’m being too critical of myself.’ There is still a good chance that everything is going to be okay. That’s the whole point of it to give you these skills and I think it’s really started to succeed. We are seeing improvement of well-being in our students. We’ve seen a 7 percent improvement in the well-being of our Year 8’s moving in to Year 9. And that’s actually, it’s a sensational result in such a short period of time.>>I’ve got a different way of looking at myself. I focus more on the strengths that I have as an individual.>>My personal belief it comes down to why people went to university to study to become a teacher. Because a lot of them will say, ‘I wanted to be able to help and nurture a young person growing a life.’>>Instead of looking at the negatives all the time you look at the positives as well. Ever since I’ve thought of myself ‘oh yeah, I’m kind of important!’>>I’m definitely less negative about the world now than I was before.>>Yeah I’m pretty proud of myself,
definitely. (MUSIC)

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