GEELONG HIGH SCHOOL

Using Positive Education to improve student and teacher wellbeing

It has been established that teacher wellbeing, as well as favourable relationships between teachers, students and administrators is essential for optimal student learning and wellbeing (Roffey, 2012). A teacher that feels valued, respected and cared for is better equipped to cope with the stresses of their students and is more capable of providing an engaging and rewarding learning environment. 

Geelong High School is a co-educational government school located in central Geelong. The school motto is ‘vitae nos paret’ or ‘prepare us for life’ and the school is utilising Positive Education in pursuit of that goal.

 The Positive Education initiative at Geelong High School was being considered at the same time as the school developed a new Vision and Values statement.  This vision statement referenced the desire to be “committed to developing caring and respectful relationships”.  There was seen to be a nice synergy between this ideal and Positive Education.

The teachers at Geelong High School first became aware of Positive Education in September 2012 and felt that it would be a good fit for the learning philosophy of the school. In 2013, seven staff members attended a four-day training course at the Institute of Positive Education and another 15 attended a one-day seminar. Positive Education was introduced as a pilot programme in 2014 to ensure that it would be an appropriate educational model for the school. The success of this programme led teachers to slowly introduce Positive Education concepts and activities across all levels, with a focus on Years 7, 8, and 9. 

The school has introduced a ‘Make a Difference’ or MAD project in year seven as well as a ‘Positive Purpose’ day for Year 10 students, designed to encourage students to pay it forward and give without expecting anything in return. 

Darren Meadows, Positive Education Coordinator at Geelong High School, believes that Positive Education is a way to enhance existing wellbeing strategies and to acknowledge the growing levels of anxiety and depression amongst students.

“Geelong High School aims to be a school where students look out for each other. Positive Education helps to make students more aware of their surroundings and others”, said Mr Meadows. 

Student wellbeing is always the highest priority at Geelong High School. The school acknowledged that, in order to provide the best possible care for students, the teachers and other care givers must also be looked after. Teachers that genuinely benefit from the implementation of a Positive Education programme are better able to pass on these lessons to their students in a sincere and honest manner. 

The establishment of the position of Positive Education Leader has been the key to driving the programme and allowing the school to remain strongly committed to implementing Positive Education across the curriculum. Geelong High School Staff have also been provided with opportunities to be involved in ongoing Professional Development, enabling them to take greater ownership of the programme. 

The introduction of Positive Education has led to a boost in morale as well as providing a toolkit for student engagement and negotiating new and challenging situations. 

Geelong High has also taken the opportunity to boost staff wellbeing with initiatives such as gratitude and recognition activities, meditation, and a regularly scheduled coffee van visiting the school, as a way of encouraging staff to take some time for themselves. The school administration sees this as a way of showing their appreciation for the teaching staff. 

It may be too early to accurately measure the impact of Positive Education at Geelong High School but anecdotally, it is having a beneficial impact around the school. Teachers at the school hope to consolidate these results with the continued and expanding implementation of Positive Education concepts.

“Whilst many of the principles of Positive Education are already embedded in the school, we have made the commitment to further adopt these philosophies as we develop into a Positive Community”, said Mr Meadows. 

REFERENCES

Roffey, S. (2012). Pupil wellbeing – Teacher wellbeing: Two sides of the same coin?. Educational & Child Psychology, 29(4), 8-17.