Sydney Catholic Schools staff get lesson in empowerment

Educators who lead learning at Sydney Catholic schools have started the year with a lesson from one of Australia’s most respected positive psychology and parenting experts.

Dr Justin Coulson is a consultant to the Federal Government’s Office of the Children’s e-Safety Commissioner, and the only person in the country to hold a PhD in psychology with a focus on family relationships.

He spoke to staff about how to approach challenges mindfully, deal with conflict and build trust, drawing examples from professional and family life.

Dr Coulson spoke about the importance of making sure people gave the best of themselves in their interactions with others, and the three e’s of effective discipline – ‘Explain, Explore and Empower’ – designed to encourage reasoning and empathy.

“Positive leadership requires positive intention,” he said.

“One of the best things about intention is that even if we get it wrong, if we can communicate our intention to somebody and they recognise our intention they are tremendously forgiving.”

“Exploration is about seeing the world through the other person’s eyes. Then we empower. We give them the opportunity to make up their own mind.”

The talk was part of a two-day professional development workshop for Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) staff – the first of four that will focus on staff and student wellbeing in 2018.

SCS is responsible for the leadership of 152 Catholic systemic primary and secondary schools that educate more than 70,000 students.

Positive leadership requires positive intention.

– Dr Justin Coulson

“The whole idea of positive psychology, and of seeing the glass as half full, is quite important at a time when there is such a focus on anxiety in society,” said Sydney Catholic Schools’ Head of Student Wellbeing and Pastoral Care, Stephen Said.

“We know that depression is predicted to overtake heart disease as the major health problem in the world by about 2020.”

SCS Education Officer, Complex Social and Emotional Needs, Jennie Coen said the ability to identify intentions and to go to others with positive intent was a key message of the talk.

“For me, the idea that before you say anything you consider your intention was a big message – are you there to help or hurt the person?,” she said.

‘With an increasing number of young people coming to school with serious mental health issues, it is important for staff to know how to manage them, but it is also important for them to understand their own stressors,” she said.

“That was the reason we invited Dr Coulson to speak. We felt that he could cover both through examples within family, industry and school leadership.”

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