2019 Positive Education Conference

‘So Positive Psychology takes seriously the bright hope that if you find yourself stuck in the parking lot of life, with few and only ephemeral pleasures, with minimal gratifications, and without meaning, there is a road out. This road takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose.’

Professor Martin Seligman

There is a beautiful, confident green to summer in Philadelphia that mirrors (or is perhaps formative of) the confidence of its people. As I walked along the Schuyllkill river the verdant foliage was almost explosive in its summer growth. The beautiful boathouses along the river and the gentle clunk of oarsmen practicing on the water makes for a most beautiful morning scene. I was out walking along the river path in the morning sun to shake off the jet-lag from the long trip from Makhanda, and the soul-feeding view in the bright summer sun did just that.

I was in Philadelphia as an invitee to a global summit on positive education, hosted by Professor Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania. A small group of academics, Eisenhower Fellows, and educational practitioners gathered to review the global state of Positive Education, and to answer the ‘what next’ questions of this developing field. It was an incredibly stimulating summit, and I am filled with much enthusiasm for what the future of positive education holds.

I am therefore really excited at the prospect  developing traction in South African schools, and for like-minded schools to be gathering together often to grow best practice in this field. I look forward to welcoming delegates to the St Andrew’s College positive education conference of 2019 and learning from our shared experience. We hope to present the most current thinking in this exciting field in a stimulating and professional way

Positive Education is not an ‘add on’ or a ‘programme’. It is, rather, an intentional way of thinking about that which we do – that we can then create the environment where our pupils may be able to identify their own unique giftedness, and flourish. By embracing mindfulness, growing positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and achievement, we create a way of viewing life that not only builds wellness for its own inherent good, but a large and growing body of international research shows that a child that is flourishing does better academically too.

In a world where our youth are increasingly anxious and where rates of teenage depression are at record highs, the benefits of wellness are not only intuitively obvious, but they are validated by research.

I am excited by positive education for all of the reasons above, but, especially, as a parent, I know that there can be no better way to raise a child than by contributing to a mindset where s/he may flourish. It’s as simple as that.

Alan Thompson

Headmaster

St Andrew’s College

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