“Teachers and researchers in positive psychology are natural allies. At its core, education is about nurturing strengths, about growth and learning. Furthermore, psychological and social well-being are key concerns for teachers and other educators and for people working in the field of positive psychology” (Shankland & Rosset, 2017).
This past week saw delegates from schools from all over South Africa attend the Positive Education Conference hosted by St Andrew’s College. It was the first conference of its type to be hosted by the school and the good feedback received has highlighted the need for wellness initiatives that are rooted in research within schools all over the world.
We were very fortunate to host Associate Professor Mathew White from the University of Adelaide as our anchor speaker and he grounded the case for Positive Education in research that has been conducted over the past decade. His experience as the lead in Positive Education and Wellness at both Geelong Grammar and at St Peter’s College in Australia enabled him to provide valuable insights into the benefit of wellness initiatives and a strength-based approach to education. He was able to provide practical strategies for the implementation of Positive Education in South African schools as well as paint a picture of where the field is heading in the next decade.
Dr Colleen Vassiliou, Head of Kingswood, presented a very thought-provoking talk on resilience and building pupils’ ability to bounce back and Tim Jarvis of Michaelhouse provided valuable insights into the inner workings of the teenage brain. We were also fortunate to have Dr Jono Davy from Rhodes University speak about the Science of Sleep and how a lack of sleep can hinder the development of healthy teenagers both physically and academically. Lynn van t’ Hoff and Cailyn Sonderup were able to share some best practice around the implementation of mindfulness in schools in the Western Cape and demonstrated the benefits of cultivating a culture of mindfulness in schools.
A number of St Andrew’s and DSG staff contributed to the programme in very inspiring ways. Andrew Renard presented a talk on the development of positive spaces and nurturing an atmosphere in which pupils can take ownership of their learning space and thrive within it. Joe Orsmond presented his extremely uplifting talk on the lessons he has learnt from creative writing and engaging with story and Roy Hobson presented his IBSC action research paper on strengths-based coaching for leadership in which pupils were challenged to engage authentically so that they could become truer versions of themselves.
Jane Jarvis presented a fantastic talk on staff wellness entitled ‘Protecting One’s Sanity: Time and Stress Management’ and Yvonne Lion-Cachet provided some valuable feedback gleaned from the International Positive Psychology Association conference held in Melbourne in July.
The schools that attended the conference will form the backbone of a Positive Education Schools’ Association that will be launched at the start of 2020 that will provide ongoing direction for the implementation Positive Education in schools across the country. The support for this initiative has already developed some significant traction and the benefit for pupils and wellbeing in schools will be very powerful.
As a school we are very proud to have played a major role in furthering the field within our context and we look forward to hosting the 2020 edition of this conference.