Happiness is not something that only happens if we are lucky. We can learn skills to create conditions for happiness and we can teach those skills to our students so that they can thrive.
Martin Seligman’s research into happiness allowed him to identify five elements that are common to people reporting high levels of happiness and wellbeing in their life, which he calls the PERMA model.
- Positive Emotion
And the great thing is, PERMA can be taught.
This is not just fluffy, feel good stuff. Mission Australia reported last year that one in five young Australians are struggling with mental illness. As Dr. Toni Noble pointed out in her keynote at the Positive School’s conference in Sydney back in 2014, by teaching positive education strategies when children are young, we hope to inoculate students against some of the mental illnesses that can result in such harmful and tragic outcomes.
In Australia, many schools are taking a whole school approach to explicitly teach the skills for wellbeing, calling it positive education. Geelong Grammar in Victoria describes it as follows,
Positive Education brings together the science of Positive Psychology with best practice teaching to encourage and support individuals, schools and communities to flourish.
Getting Started with Positive Education: A Whole School Approach
Positive education strategies are most successful when a whole school approach is taken, but it’s a big job. Thankfully, there are now many resources available to help teachers and schools get started.
Geelong Grammar School share their positive education model along with a wealth of professional learning resources here.
Also worth checking out is Kids Matter, which provides a mental health and wellbeing framework for primary schools as well as tools and support to help schools get started. If you are an Australian school, you can even register to become a recognised Kids Matter school.
My primary school is in the early stages of developing our whole school positive education approach. A resource that we will be relying on heavily is the BounceBack program. Bounce back has developed a model similar to Seligman’s PERMA, but with a few more elements, called PROSPER. You can download an article about PROSPER from this link.
Support for Individual Teachers
There are many online resources to support individual teachers looking to include a elements of positive education in their classroom. Some of my favourites include:
- Have You Filled a Bucket Today? – Written by Carol McCloud along with the associated resources at bucketfillers101.com bucket filling helps students learn how to increase their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others through simple acts of kindness.
- Smiling Mind – A mindfulness program designed to help young people manage stress and increase resilience. It includes age appropriate programs for 7-11 year olds, 12-15 year olds, 16-22 year olds and adults. There is also a program specifically designed to be used by schools which you can find more about here.
- The Sentis Brain Animation Series – Explicitly teaching students how their brains work is a powerful strategy. This short animated series helps students to understand ideas such as neuroplasticity, the formation of habits, and how emotions work. Use these as a springboard to help teach lessons that develop growth mindset and emotional control.
- Via Character Strengths survey – Seligman’s research shows that if we work in our areas of strength, our wellbeing increases. This survey helps people identify their character strengths and learn how to develop them.
- 3Things – This amazing project from Oxfam helps students find a sense of meaning by committing to three small or large things they can do to make the world a better place, sharing their stories and being inspired by the stories of others.
And if you need even more positive education resources, check out my growing collection on PearlTrees.
Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, Waag Society.