We believe...

Justin Robinson

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We believe… Positive Education places wellbeing at the heart of our learning community.

For Geelong Grammar School, this week heralds not just the start of a new school year, but the start of a new chapter in the School’s history. Still inside her first year as Principal of GGS, Rebecca Cody has unveiled our School's strategic framework for the next decade. Three key strategic pillars sit at the foundation of this vision: Adventure Education, Positive Education, and Creative Education.

Positive Education remains the central strategic pillar, summarised by the statement: 
“We believe Positive Education places wellbeing at the heart of our learning community.” 

The new expression of the strategic vision is an important, pivotal moment for the School and for Positive Education. It remains equally important that the excitement and hope generated by the School’s philosophy is matched by clear and consistent practice. It is, therefore, timely that we, as an Institute, articulate and share our key working definitions – starting with a concise list of our beliefs on Positive Education and concluding with our most updated definition of ‘Positive Education’ itself. 

Given that our School has been learning, living, teaching and embedding Positive Education for ten years and our Institute has been supporting the growth and global development of this field for the past five years, it might be fair to expect that a definition and explanation of ‘Positive Education’ would be well and truly in place. Why is this not the case? Partly because the field and the science continue to mature and evolve and partly due to the challenge of articulating precisely what Positive Education is - and also what it is not!

Helpful articulations

Over the past three months we have collaborated with our Institute team, our GGS colleagues and external ‘Friends’ to create a set of succinct phrases that attempt to capture the essence of real-world, applied Positive Education. In our view, none of the statements work as a stand-alone statement. It is a very daunting task to explain the scope and nuances of Positive Education in one sentence. However, we hope that when these statements are read together, they distil the hopes and intentions of this field.

We have generated and received well over one hundred belief statements for Positive Education. In recent months we have fine-tuned and whittled these down to the following eight belief statements and now we would very much welcome your feedback and your input.  We have established a very brief survey where you are invited to comment on the following statements and suggest your own enhancements.     

We believe… 

Positive Education unites a community through promoting a common language of wellbeing
Positive Education teaches skills and knowledge to promote wellbeing and help prevent illbeing within the context of living a ‘good’ life
Positive Education nurtures healthy and cohesive learning environments
Positive Education supports teachers to role-model courage, compassion and curiosity
Knowing and using one’s character strengths is good for individuals and good for society
In encouraging young people to care for others, to care for our world and to care for themselves
Positive Education is best implemented as a whole-school approach, harnessing the processes of Learn, Live, Teach and Embed
Positive Education makes our schools, and in turn our world, a better place

Potential misunderstandings 

Whilst our preference is to avoid describing things by explaining what they are not, in this case it feels an effective way of clearing up several key misunderstandings. Over the years, many educators and interested observers have asked us questions such as: “Does everyone smile all the time at GGS?” and “Is Pos Ed about protecting kids from failure and making everything fun?” I hope you are not surprised to learn that the answer to both of these sample questions is a gentle “No”. The following four phrases go a step further in helping people understand Positive Education by articulating what we as a community believe Positive Education is not.

We also believe…

Positive Education is not about being happy all the time, and certainly not about avoiding negative emotions
Positive Education is not about ensuring a child is free from failure or free from adversity
Positive Education is not a one size fits all approach, nor a quick-fix, nor a stand-alone curriculum
Positive Education is not just another program for schools to introduce

A powerful name and yet a problematic name

We do recognise the challenges that come with the name ‘Positive Education’. It is possible to interpret this title as utopian and unrealistic through to the other extreme of condescending and arrogant.  We hope the above belief statements provide a richer picture and understanding of what we believe are its characteristics. With your help we hope educators can see the value in the name and understand that Positive Education complements best-practice teaching and that it is a whole-school approach designed to intentionally nurture the wellbeing of school communities.

We also provide for you below our evolving definitions of Positive Education.

“Positive Education brings together the science of positive psychology with best practice teaching and learning to encourage and support schools and individuals within their communities to flourish.”   
Geelong Grammar School, 2011

“Positive Education teaches skills and knowledge to help prevent illbeing and promote wellbeing within the context of living a good life.”
Geelong Grammar School, 2015

“Positive Education is the implementation of scientific research and educational best practice to enhance resilience, optimise engagement and maximise performance.”
Geelong Grammar School, 2019

We welcome your feedback, your contributions and your questions. You are invited to click on the following survey link to comment on the phrases which are most hopeful and helpful to you, and/or to add new phrases to assist the ongoing development of the field.

Over the coming months we will deliver conference presentations on this topic in Australia and overseas and we hope to gather wisdom from many passionate educators. We then look forward to sharing updated phrases for general use.

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Justin Robinson

Justin Robinson is the inaugural Director of the Institute of Positive Education. As a passionate leader in the field of student and staff wellbeing, Justin has been invited to write for a number of publications and speak at conferences both in Australia and around the world.