Why the positive…

When did ‘positive’ start being thrown around in front of words like; parenting, teaching, education, self, psychology, behaviour..? All of a sudden it feels like it just popped up in a way and started to become present in conversations. New parents, young teachers and psychologists especially were starting to be told; “positive this…positive that….positive so…” 

We can trace it back to Martin Seligman, a Psychologist who in 1942 began to study the science behind Positive Psychology. Which is, in fact, the reason behind positive education and positive parenting; as they are based on the science of positive psychology.

Seligman became interested in the study at a young age when he realised that throughout all studies of mental health thus far, scientists and psychologists had not yet studied what made us happy! 

It arguably wasn’t until the 1990s that Positive Psychology started to make an impact in schools. Of course this was not the beginning, you could potentially trace the importance of happiness and wellbeing as far back as formal education goes, perhaps starting with the Jesuits. However the concept of Positive (lead) Education based on the science of positive psychology is a rather new concept. 

Within Australia, Seligman and his team began to work with Geelong Grammar Victoria as advisors for a Positive Educational Program and Model that was introduced in 2008. We believe this was influential to kick-starting the trend to use positive-based pedagogies. Now trends come and go with pedagogies and behavioural theories in teaching; however this was the beginning of the current trend as we know it. By 2013 the government had introduced the Kids Matter program and many leaders in schools began looking deeper into the wellbeing of their students. 

The BIG misconception

We believe a misconception with the terminology positive is that it is often perceived that one must be happy and pleasantly calm at all times. We’ve spoken with parents who have been misled by the concept. Thinking, they must always be in a ‘rainbows and sunshine’ kind of attitude with their children. Or teachers who think that it means they can not implement rules and boundaries if they are going to upset the children. Please note that this is not the case. 

It is simply about putting the wellbeing of a child at the forefront. Ensuring that a child is able to flourish in the environment. The key ideas (although many) we believe are about ensuring children have: 

  1. An optimistic attitude (resilience). 
  2. Positively engage with all their emotions (emotional confidence). 
  3. Comfortability with their strengths and weaknesses (sense of self-awareness). 
  4. Care for their environment and others (altruism).  

So ultimately, maybe the Jesuits were the initiators of wellbeing, happiness and positivity within education? Just food for thought… 

It’s importance in education

By now, hopefully you are seeing that it is ultimately about looking at the world (and yourself) with optimistic glasses. It’s important to teach such principles within our schools as children are at school around 30-40 hours a week. Broken down; Geelong Grammar tells us in their video that their Positive Education Model  shines the importance on ensuring their students have a;

“…growth mindset… wellbeing continuums… feeling good… understanding of full emotional range… and all in all, to flourish”

Charlie Scudamore: Vice Principal of Geelong Grammar

Sounds good to us! As our children delve deeper into the voraciously growing and changing 21st Century environment we want to ensure as parents, schools and teachers we can keep them grounded. 

The above theories and models are about just that. We are often seeing new and changing systems in education that are teaching to the 21st Century Learner: like the popular growing Primary Years Program (PYP) introduced in 1997 and designed by the International Baccalaureate board. Their content is modern and important, we need to teach critical and creative thinking as well as problem solving abilities.

However, we too need to keep in mind the models of positivity in education to ensure that we are still building learners who are prepared with more than just content knowledge.  

References and Resources:

Positive Education by Geelong Grammar 

Preparing Frameworks for the 21st Century Skills: Harvard Graduate School of Education: Chris DeDe 

Primary Years Programme website

Pursuit of Happiness: Martin Seligman on Positive Psychology 

World Government Summit 2017: Publication on The State of Positive Education 

 © Positive Teaching


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