Positive Education and Flourishing

Although the notion of ‘flourishing’ might sound esoteric to some, for many at Auburn South Primary School it has made a profound difference in the way the school and its teaching personnel think, live, deliver and experience education.

Positive emotion, engagement, good relationships, meaning and purpose in life, and accomplishment are five endeavors identified by Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology that are crucial to human flourishing. They are the essential tenants of Positive Education. These five endeavors are being taught at Auburn South Primary School through Positive Education strategies. 

Auburn South Primary School’s Positive Education journey started in 2014, when Principal Marcus Wicher first attended a four day workshop at The Institute of Positive Education. 

The 700 pupil primary school situated in Hawthorn, Victoria mission is “to develop a positive sense of identity within a community that encourages individuals to flourish as inquirers, creative thinkers and global citizens”.  Currently more than 60 school personnel have in some capacity, participated in Positive Education programmes run by The Institute of Positive Education. 

Mr. Wicher estimates that Positive Education strategies, are being utilised and reinforced in all classes, across all year levels at Auburn South Primary School- from mathematics to literacy and health, and are practiced through strength-based activities, inquiry and solution-focused language - verbal and written, in the classroom. 

Teachers at Auburn South Primary School are also encouraged to lead students in classroom mindfulness meditation to help alleviate stress and anxiety levels amongst students and to train attention and focus for optimal learning. 

“Positive Education is not just about happiness; it’s about providing children with the tools for a positive mindset and strategies to help them cope with what the world throws at them”, said Mr Wicher. 

With the health and wellbeing of teachers a telling sign of the success of Positive Education strategies, Auburn South Primary School acknowledges that the path to flourishing starts with its staff.

Genuine staff engagement with Positive Psychology is a prerequisite for effectively communicating Positive Education. Teachers at Auburn South Primary School are encouraged to take what they can from Positive Education for themselves; this will ensure authentic and effective practice in the classroom.

In this space, staff of Auburn South Primary School are invited to participate in weekly yoga at the school and are also encouraged to participate in gratitude and inquiry based activities that can be translated to the classroom. 

Auburn South Primary School is also committed to students developing a ‘Growth Mindset’ and this year, the Prep to Year 2 students participated in the school’s first ‘Grow Your Mind Day’.

“Statistics state that one in five young people are affected by mental illness. As educators, we have a responsibility to ensure that all students have the knowledge skills and habits to positively affect and manage their wellbeing.   All educators and support staff need to be equipped with coping strategies to not only help themselves during tough times but to also support those around them, particularly students, who are ‘at-risk’ emotionally or have a history of mental illness, he added. 

The next stage for Auburn South Primary School is to ensure that Positive Education practices and theory are embedded into the school’s Teaching and Learning, Assessment and Wellbeing and Engagement policies and planning documents. 

Students that flourish get more out of positive daily activities such as interacting with others, playing, helping and learning.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, flourishers are better able to benefit and learn from their positive emotions. Positive Education strategies are providing Auburn South Primary School with improved learning environments for students. Positive Education is also providing a new avenue to the school and teachers to engage with parents. While these Positive Education strategies are still in their infancy, Positive Education is helping young minds flourish at Auburn South Primary school as it is integrated into the school’s IB PYP curriculum and through the development of, and access to, co-curricular activities that allow students to grow, identify their strengths, understand their emotions and reach their full potential. 

December 2015