Day 3 of my first PESA conference is done and dusted, I think I can definitely say I would like to come back (pending funds) as it was a very worthwhile and engaging opportunity. I am leaving with a fire well and truly started to shape the positive education journey of my school. I am very grateful to all the schools who took part in the “colour your threads” positive education day which helped to fund my scholarship to attend this event.
7am – yoga (the bed is so comfy at least my neck and back aren’t sore like they usually are in hotels)
8am – breakfast and check out
9am – keynote speech 5 with Prof Lindsay Oades talking about wellbeing literacy and enabling students to thrive. Playing with language is an important part of wellbeing. Wellbeing literacy is how we control the use of wellbeing language (Oades & Johnston, 2017), how we communicate for and about wellbeing (Oades 2018), mindful language use for wellbeing (Oades, 2019).
1. School education system is well placed to be a broad lever for generational change – actually better placed than the health system for population based wellbeing
2. The other pervasive lever is language which describes and shapes our realities
3. Therefore, developing literacy about and for wellbeing through the school system will lead to generational change
If your vocabulary is all negative language then your narrative will be built around this. People are then unable to project into the future and predict a positive narrative if vocabulary is limited. Language shapes reality. This is so true in a trauma framework as well.
Many of the population do not have the concept of wellbeing as including positive things, they only have the construct of wellbeing as being the absence of bad things eg illness, debt, sadness etc. Much of our current language is a residual of the negativity bias. Capability is what we can be and do, not what we have been and done. Wellbeing is a capability.
ACARA says there are 6 modes of communication, we should be communicating (about and for) wellbeing through all these modes:
- Comprehending – listening reading viewing
- Composing – speaking writing creating
Instead of being sucked into wellbeing interventions, focus on what students learn about wellbeing. This is a shift away from medical discourse to a teaching and learning discourse
10am – the final keynote (number 6) with Prof Lea Waters focusing on strengths based teaching to bring out the best in teachers and students
Lots of free resources with a parent focus: ww.strengthswitch.com
Recommended reads – childhood disrupted ($11.99 on kindle), the deepest well ($16.99 on kindle) and Lea’s latest book “the strength switch” ($4.99 on kindle). I bought all three!
Strength based approach is building up and maximising their character strengths, make the most of what they have first before addressing what is lacking/weak. Focus on what is right before focusing on challenges
Everyone has strengths – this is a deep and essential part of the philosophy. Research shows 50/50 nature and nurture for strength development. Our role as educators is to work with what is already there and help build on it, to unlock what is already there. It is not just to identify but also to help them continue to grow and develops – they need to see AND build them
All students have some of the 24 character strengths http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths. Other options include
– Physical strengths
– Intellectual strengths
– Emotional/heart strengths
Key strength approach beliefs:
- It is teachable. It is a capability that can be developed
- Can apply at any age group
- Can use strength approach to enhance academic curriculum, it does not need to be its own program or curriculum
Student programs spill upwards to teacher wellbeing. Increase in engagement, work enjoyment, resilience and a renewed sense of vocation. Increase in positive feelings and reduced burn out and negative emotions
Key take away: Integration of strengths into ILPs and behaviour plans!
Morning tea – I managed to get all my booth stamps completed (I had to restart this morning as I managed to lose my exhibitor slip) and enter the draw to win….something? Not sure what!
11:30am – final workshop session on high impact teaching: starting with relationships was run by Nan Bahr from Southern Cross University who was extremely engaging! Nan started with a great interactive poll intro using another technology (PollEv) which I haven’t seen before. Added it to my teacher list.
Transactional approach to teaching and learning
We start with what do the need to learn and then we focus on how they will demonstrate it? How will we measure it? Then we move into the transactional approach of how will I teach it and how will they receive it?
Should this be our starting point….or should we start at the other end?
Self-respecting learning perspective
* Fred is happy with his efforts in maths, he likes maths and thinks he is a good learner in maths – this is self esteem
* Fred feels awkward when he tries to dance, doesn’t think he is a dancer but is okay with that – this is self concept
* Fred quite likes himself, is happy with who he is and his general worthiness and value as a person – this is self respect, this is built from moment ps of building self esteem and self concept
Piglets 4 noble steps to gaining self respect
1. Fearful – I can’t do it, I will fail, I am afraid. We recognise this in teaching as a lack of comfort and we support with scaffolding and building strategies for success
2. Pretence – pretending not to be afraid of continuing, acting out, demonstrating forced bravery or fraud behaviour, cover ups. Fake understanding and demonstration of learning
3. Self satisfaction – I know it seems easy, but not everyone could do it. So excited, proud. Happy with self, a good place to be but not enough – momentary.
4. Self respect – this is what we are after ultimately, the student has freed themselves from the teacher and has taken on board. Deep sense of who they are and what they are capable of. Prepared to face next challenge. The teacher may still be there but the student feels resilient and capable on their own
Teachers role is to develop student self respect. Students develop this in spirals within spirals, the teacher helps to juggle which step they are at within a spiral by knowing the learner. This means the relationships between student and teacher are key
Suggested hierarchy in classroom that values self respect
1. The relationship – between teacher and learner, needs to be productive
2. The learner – how do they learn, how do we need to respond to their needs
3. The learning – approach to curriculum and assessment
Key take away: meet the child where they are
12:20pm inspire sessions – I didn’t know what this was going in to it so I chose the beginner stream since that’s what I am when it comes to positive education….for now. It was a collection of different teachers sharing experiences they have had as beginners in Pos Ed programs or implementation efforts.
1. Sarah from Hutchins Primary shared her experience in teaching year 1s to engage in mindful practices for 5-15 mins three times a week, she found that their concentration improved from her observations and also from students self-assessments. They were also able to meditate for longer periods as time went on. She used apps like smiling minds, headspace, insight
2. Desley from Mt View HS runs a 5 in 15 using the 5 ways to wellbeing framework. Important to note that staff chose this framework over others. They liked it because of action words. They have created 15 min lesson at start of the day to check in and do short activities. Week 1-10 of term is focused on specific one eg connecting with brief snap shots on others eg one week giving, two weeks be active. This rotates through the year so they all get focus at different times. Her tips were rotating and variety gave lots of options for kids to engage, there also needs to be clear explanation of WHY for teachers and resources, scope and sequence etc need to be provided to minimise workload. They also linked to special days eg world autism day, poetry day, harmony week etc. Giving staff opportunity to feedback is very important on activities, structure, what worked and so on
3. Lisa from Healesville Sanctuary shared an activity they run that connects students to land and tech. We did an interactive moving action for a local Dreamtime story and then used iPad tech to locate the European name for a local landform.
4. Andrew from Loreto Nedlands Primary in WA talked about Wellness 60 as an activity for all staff to get involved. It’s not release, DOTT etc it’s literally time away from the school and demands of teaching. The principal and deputies take all of the kids in one go and they learn about character strengths etc in that time. Teachers have fed back they used the time to: nap, catch up with colleagues, get a coffee, watch TV, do family commitments, watch TV etc. Wellbeing framework is also embedded across the school
5. Nerida from discovery college (HongKong) shared about using character strengths to build a positive classroom. Talked about small things having a impact including leading with strengths and using these in all interactions. She also specifically names strengths as she sees them in the classroom. Post it notes to identify strengths visible in the classroom at the time, students can take post it notes home. Wellbeing wall for students to post notes with starting prompts. They can also post them in a post box for others . Dice to help students reflect on the day behind them and on the day ahead.
6. Samantha from Muswellbrook HS shared her schools transformation journey towards a positive education focus through where there’s a will. Pos Ed does not have to start with a budget, you can embed with minimal cost. Initial focus was on character strengths and it does take time. Samantha shared the schools journey through a year 7 student who took his own life and how the information about positive education and wellbeing helped the school move through it.
7. Sue and Emma from Geelong Grammar are from a school with more than 10 years of pos Ed, however the positive leadership coaching shift is relatively recent. They now have 9 coaches on staff who work together to develop a school wide positive shift in professional conversations. This included staff coaching senior students. I found this really interesting as we are currently in the very early stages of introducing a peer coaching model at our small school – although ours has no funding behind it and therefore no outside organisation to support implementation. This model was interesting as they had coaches across all levels of the school and the model was very solution focused – where are you now, where do you want to be, what have you done before, what can you do now, I’m impressed with…..
8. Jessica from Ringwood north primary school started their journey with their staff. Buy in and professional development was essential so they dedicated a year to staff growth and development. Schools last year said they regretted not collecting data before starting the initiative, so they made sure to collect data using the EPOCH model. They focused on learn it and live it first, now moving into teach it and embed it. This reinforces what other school leaders have also shared with me as being key to getting a framework up and running. They now celebrate achievements and positive things first and have a good focus on gratitude.
9. Melanie from St Andrews Anglican college and institute of learning shared a strategic planning process they used to introduce Pos Ed to the school and make it stick. Initial staff enthusiasm high after whole staff Pos Ed training but lack of interest from exec and splatter gun approach for initial intro meant staff became frustrated. What has worked well, what are we not prepared to let go of, other ideas from other schools, develop a school direction but also enable staff to explore passion projects etc, evidence based and data collection, what will we call it, how will we staff it
2:10pm – student panel: I only saw part of this as it was running a little late and I had to scoot off just before 3pm to make the only direct flight back to Canberra. However, it was great to hear the collective agreement from the young people that wellbeing was an essential part of their educational journey.
Today’s quote: using a strengths based approach is like searching for gold when you are already 100% sure there is something there to find, you know there will be a positive outcome (Lea Waters)
Today’s question/s: where to from here – what is the best way to move forward with this within my (somewhat unusual) school context? Do I start with strengths based or do I need to look at a framework like 5 ways or PERMA? What is the best way to start this movement within my school and most importantly to get ALL staff on board?
I think I’ll have to ponder all of this and then write another blog about what steps might be next for our school.