Tiny Clue #2 Positive Education at Holy Family is “in the fabric”

Several years ago Holy Family was invited to participate in an inquiry by a group of government schools in Northern Adelaide into the viability of adopting the principles of Positive Education in our schools. To cut a very long story short, we played a significant role in drawing in lots of schools and hundreds of teachers into large scale professional learning around  Martin Seligman’s work at Penn State. Geelong Grammar’s Positive Education Institute facilitated four-day workshops training staff members in the principles and practices of positive psychology in education. A senior leader in the Education Department asked me to describe the process we followed to get positive education going in our school. I answered by saying that “its in the fabric”. I immediately conceded that might sound somewhat trite. The person immediately commented that she understood completely what I was saying and that she felt that this was the ultimate strategy and outcome. Each staff member in the school has participated over time in four days personal training in Positive Education.This commitment of resources involved some risk and not a lot of certainty regarding what would flow from this investment. The clues and insights I gained from the roll-out of this program include:

  • Our faith is a hopeful tradition. I saw the commonality of Seligman’s psychological principles and practices with the Christian ethos. I saw it as a contemporary vehicle for inculcating the very values and practices that we embrace as Christians
  • I didn’t go into this project with a pre-ordained strategy or fixed mind-set of how the learning of the teachers would flow through to the children and the families. The agency I  extended to the staff paid dividends in un-choreographed ways. The staff intuitively used the language of positivity, growth mindsets, character strengths and gratitude with the children, In turn, the children shared this language with their families and caregivers
  • People ask me why I place so much emphasis on positivity as a starting point. My reflection is that the principles and insights of positive education has the effect of opening people’s hearts and minds to change. This work is a pre-cursor to introducing new insights, challenges and practices. When people have the “language” of growth mindset embedded in their psyche they seem to self monitor and regulate their own fixed mindsets about change.



An outstanding example of positive education “in the fabric” at Holy Family is the structure of the “Welcome Circle” in which we “shout out” into the circle the pillars and values of our school that we hold so dear. Another favourite is “Whats  Going Well!” when we go around the circle sharing our “specks of gold” from the day. Personally I find these insights inspirational and humbling.

Im sure others from inside and outside the school can add further to these insights…


2 thoughts on “Tiny Clue #2 Positive Education at Holy Family is “in the fabric”

  1. Undergoing Positive Education through Geelong Grammar was somewhat life changing – professionally and personally.

    At Holy Family Catholic School the wellbeing of our children and their families is a priority. Geelong Grammar’s Positive Education provided fantastic initiatives into fostering wellbeing. We also explored valuable life skills and the program highlighted the importance of unconditional positive regard, building and nurturing positive environments for our children.

    At HFCS we create learning environments where our children enter states of flow (investigations/play, inquiry, MUDLA/Fish Farm, 100 languages, nature play- log park/ grevillia reserve). Flow is enjoyable for children, challenging and interesting. The idea behind flow means our children are absorbed in their learning experience and gaining optimal learning experience. This concept was explored during our training with Pos Ed.

    We dove into the importance of building positive emotions that enable our children to flourish (feeling good and doing good). It can be a real challenge for young children to learn the skills to self-regulate. Feelings and emotions can be overwhelming for adults even when they understand the differences between feelings and they know the reasons behind their feelings. So imagine how it feels for a child who is yet to understand why they are feeling how they are and what the presenting feeling is. As educators it is our role to support the wellbeing of our children and provide a supportive environment where they can explore all these feelings and emotions in a safe, non-judgmental space.

    Positive Education is definitely in the fabric. Everyday I engage in conversations with my students where I ask to hear their specks of gold- this dialogue opens another avenue for my documentation. Specks of gold enable the children to share the good things that happen in their day, their interests, and allows students to express gratitude. The same way we as staff are able to do this during staff meeting!

    Other aspects of Pos Ed that have been adapted in my class include:

    Bucket Filling –children express daily kindness and gratitude. Bucket filling is a metaphor for understanding the effects of our actions and words on the wellbeing of others and ourselves.

    Mindfulness – We participate in relaxation everyday. We have recently taken to having relaxation outside.

    Mindsets – We always refer to the language of applying a growth mindset.

    Welcoming circles- web

    Emotion gems- upon arrival students “check in” with how they are feeling using coloured gems which represent the feelings of happiness, sadness, tired and angry

  2. I have found that by delving into the work of Positive Psychology and the PERMA (Positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment) model staff, including myself personally, have found this learning purposeful for their work and relevant in their own lives. After undertaking the Positive Education training their is a noticeable shift in mindset and outlook which is then shared with the students. At Holy Family the work of Positive Psychology has been embedded to be a strong link to how we do things everyday through mindfulness, gratitude work, flow, active responding and engagement. Lastly, I have found the elements of Positive Education have also linked seamlessly into our Catholic faith with a similar of positive emotions and treating others like you would want to be treated.

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