The Plastic Brain

Discovering Positive Education, Part Three

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We have pushed past the half-way point. It is a huge course, covering so much content. Given any other material I would probably be flagging by now, but this stuff is gold, and keeps me coming back for more.

Today’s sessions were:

  • Resilience
  • Character strengths

Only two today, as these are big. Really big in my mind. In the Geelong Grammar Institute of Positive Education model, resilience is defined as:

Practising sustainable habits for optimal physical and psychological health that are developed from a sound knowledge base.

It is clear from this, and what they said, that they view resilience as both a physical and mental strength. It relies on flexibility, growth, adaptability and perseverance. It also relies on both internal and external resources. While we may acknowledge that resilience requires inner strength, it is also important to know that resilience is supported by connections to family, friends and community. This is a point that adolescents sometimes miss too.

In the break-out session we explored the concepts of help-seeking and coaching – once again, addressing the external resources for resilience. It is OK to ask for help – it benefits you and empowers your helper.

The other session was on strengths. In particular, the focus was on the VIA Character Strengths. You can take a survey here, to find out more about your strengths. The strengths are a great way to start dialogues with students about what they can do. Especially when they are in trouble, or even in crisis. In fact, I am such a fan of Character Strengths that I have embedded it across the Year 8 Pastoral Care curriculum. After today’s session, I plan to go even further. I want to make sure it happens earlier, and goes deeper.

It is important for students to be aware of their strengths, but it is only by using them that they really take their well-being to the next level. Therefore it is important to teach them in context, not in isolation. For us, we are asking students:

  • How would you use your signature strengths to combat bullying?
  • Which strengths would be important is these scenarios?
  • How can you use your strengths to make a positive impact in the lives of others?

I hope that a strengths-based approach will increasingly become part of our program. But more than that, I want to see it in the regular curriculum, and in our school policies, even for staff.

I also find it useful to be aware of my own strengths, and how I use them. One of the most powerful activities this week has been the Strengths Spotting exercise, in which members of the group identified the strengths which we saw in each other. It was truly uplifting.


Author: Rogan Tinsley

Biology, science and maths teacher with a PhD in Neuroscience and passion for education.

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