It is noted that positive emotions, resilience, optimism and a sense of control over life are key ingredients for a healthy emotional and mental outlook in life. Chung Cheng High (Yishun) embarked on this journey of Positive Education (PosEd) in mid-2019 with the main objective of promoting positive wellbeing and to foster a positive school climate and culture. We hope that by building a positive school culture, we can enable staff and students to live positively and thrive in their work and studies.
We took reference from local and overseas schools that have implemented PosEd programmes. We studied the models and approaches, such as the Geelong Grammar School’s model for PosEd which sees flourishing simply as both ‘feeling good’ and ‘doing good’. Our wellbeing model focuses on building a culture of care where staff and students can ‘flourish’, experience positive emotions, and are motivated and engaged in teaching and learning.
Our PosEd journey starts with focusing on teacher wellbeing as a priority as teachers create and define the safe learning environment which has a positive effect on the wellbeing of their students. We believe that teachers should model the traits which they hope to foster and embody the change they hope to inspire in their students.
Our model focuses on three of Martin Seligman’s five elements of optimal wellbeing– PERMA, namely,
· “P” emotional wellbeing (feelings of happiness, satisfaction and positive feelings about self),
· “R” social wellbeing(feeling connected to others and valued by the community) and
· “M” psychological wellbeing (personal growth, giving to others and living in accordance with values) for a more comprehensive approach to psychological health.
A taskforce was set up in mid-2019 to study and propose possible directions and model that the school could embark on. The taskforce started with an audit on existing wellbeing structures and practices using Appreciative Inquiry principles such as what is working well, what is right and what is possible. With the help of consultants, the members identified key wellbeing concepts to be practised by staff and students. Time and resources were dedicated to explicitly teach and incorporate PosEd concepts into the curriculum and existing frameworks.
Some practices of PosEd were not entirely new as we had already implemented elements in school-wide Values-In-Action projects as well as lessons on grit, resilience, acts of kindness and gratitude. What was new were the introduction of frameworks, research and language surrounding PosEd.
Embarking on this PosEd journey and the research undergirding PosEd provided staff and students with the scientific evidence to support the strategies for enhancing wellbeing and a common language to build a culture of wellbeing. PosEd concepts and language were used in school activities and pastoral care to ensure consistency of messaging.
With the fresh envisioning of the school’s mission and values at the end of 2019, the new narrative now incorporates PosEd language to signify the commitment of the whole school community. Our vision is to be a community of positive and future-ready leaders with a mindset for excellence. Our school values are now captured in the following edict:
With integrity we live,
With grit we persevere,
With empathy we care; and
With gratitude we serve
Our strategic thrusts included developing future-ready leaders with a positive mind-set anchored on school values and competent and committed staff with a positive mindset who learn, live, teach and embed PosEd to create a positive learning environment.
Here is a roadmap for implementing and sustaining PosEd that we came up with:
The taskforce was cognisant of the possible resistance to change as it is unrealistic to assume immediate compliance in first year of implementation. The stages of implementation, from understanding, learning, living, teaching and embedding PosEd in our practice allowed for a more effective rollout as the adults in the school community were given the opportunity to understand, apply and experience improvement in their lives before they progressed to fulfilling the obligation to support students’ wellbeing.
Another challenge faced was in the design of a suitable measure for wellbeing. The taskforce is exploring proxies such as better social and mental health outcomes, increased student participation rate in school and community activities, as well as a stronger sense of belonging.
The school is currently collaborating with researchers in the National Institute of Education and the Ministr of Education on a study how students’ peer network and stress mindset influence well-being, resilience, and academic performance.
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