The science of positive thinking

Positive Education Program at De La Salle College Ashfield.

Mindfulness Thursday at De La Salle College Ashfield.

De La Salle College Ashfield has adopted a holistic approach to wellbeing by introducing the Positive Education Colloquium.

Started in 2015, a key focus of the Colloquium is on drawing on the skills of experts from Australian Catholic University to educate staff, parents and the wider educational community on the philosophy and practices of positive psychology. The program is organised around a SPIRE framework to ensure that the students’ spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational and emotional needs are included.

It is practically applied in the school with talks and activities on positive psychology, mind-body connections, mindfulness, relationships, flow, stress and procrastination, making mistakes and ‘permission to be human’, choice, nutrition, sleep and exercise.

Each topic is introduced to a year group by the Principal Stephen Kennaugh, who spent 12 months studying positive psychology through a certificate course run by Geelong Grammar School. The College’s Director of Learning and Wellbeing and Leaders of Wellbeing follow-up with more information for the students. In their Student Success Groups, the boys take part in various activities on the different topics to reinforce content and exercises taught.

One of the areas the students have been exploring is the concept of ‘flow’, which is when people are most immersed, focused and energised. In each year group, the boys have been thinking about when they work at their best during the day and how they can relate that to their study timetable and life.

Another activity is ‘the best me’ where the boys reflect on when they are at their best and record their emotions and feelings in their journals. On the topic of ‘permission to be human’, the boys have been learning tools to help them when they are in need of support. They have also been looking at relationships in their lives and reflecting on how positive relationships contribute to their wellbeing.

“As a result of the program, the boys have a greater awareness of themselves, their health and wellbeing and its relationship with learning.

– Stephen Kennaugh, Principal

Another initiative has been ‘Mindfulness Thursday’ when everyone in the school is silent for 20 minutes for quiet reflection or prayerful meditation. Next year, ‘Mindfulness Thursday’ will move to ‘Mindfulness Monday’ to get the school week off to a good start.

“For years, learning and wellbeing were separated in the school curriculum,” Mr Kennaugh said.  “But we now know they should all be under the same framework because of the impact wellbeing has on learning. Anecdotally, we knew this, but over the past 20 years there has been extensive research in this area and there is now real Science and evidence behind it.”

He said the Colloquium is a way to provide staff with an opportunity for deep professional development while at the same time get parents and staff from other schools across the State involved.

Mr Kennaugh said there was an increased prevalence of depression in society and children with greater wellbeing needs.

“Our positive education approach, supported by the SPIRE Framework, gives us a basis from where we can address these issues and build up the students’ confidence, wellbeing and ability to be able to cope with the pressures of life and be better able to learn.

“As a result of the program, the boys have a greater awareness of themselves, their health and wellbeing and its relationship with learning.”

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