What's so positive about positive education

By Luke McKenna

Is positive education like the self-esteem movement? Looking for opportunities to praise kids for anything including putting forth a good effort, performing expected behaviours and remembering to breathe!

Is positive education about having a positive mindset? Telling kids they can do anything.

Is it about a positive attitude? Being a glass half full sort of person.

Is positive education about having a positive belief? Is it about telling students to never give up and they'll achieve their dreams?

Informed proponents of "positive education" already understand that this is not the case. I would argue that the answer to many of the above questions is a resounding "no".

Positive education is intended to be proactive in nature. It is not about fixing problems with people. It is not about focussing only on those students who are falling behind the rest or performing below the expected level. It is about helping each student reach their full potential. Helping every student become their best. It is called positive because it comes from positive psychology, and is the alternative to the "deficit" model- trying to fix things and people that are broken.

No matter where kids and adults are in their own journey of achievement, growth and wellbeing- whether it be academic, emotional, social, physical, spiritual- all of us can keep moving forward.

Growth mindsets are not positive mindsets. A growth mindset is about understanding neuroscience and learning. Not believing whatever we want about ourselves. Growing our brain through application- neuroplasticity. The reality is if we don't put the work in, our brain doesn't adapt. Growth mindsets only work when we do!

Grit is not about never giving up. Sometimes we should give up (the things that distract us from our top few priorities). It is about applying our energy and effort towards things that make us more effective, while simultaneously avoiding or reducing behaviour that won't lead to fulfillment and improvement. For many students and adults, the biggest challenge is knowing what to let go of and when to let go of it. Priorities and focus are more important than continual busy work. Forming good habits, setting meaningful goals- these are useful, teachable components that every student can learn and practice.

Wellbeing is not about thinking positively. It is about evidence based tools that improve our wellbeing- gratitude, mindfulness, active constructive responding, generosity to name a few. Not soft, cuddly stuff- rather well researched action that anyone can do (but they do require healthy disciplines).

Positive education is not about believing that anyone can be a leader. It's about understanding that leadership happens every day through any action that influences the people around us. Everyone is a leader- but that doesn't mean that everyone does a good job of it. We can use our influence for positive or negative and we should help our students direct their influence towards the positive.

There is nothing fancy or philosophical about positive education- just evidence-based actions that anyone can take to improve their reality.

What's so positive about positive education? The impact it has in helping every student to become their best.

For ready-to-use positive education lessons that take the pain out of preparation for your teachers, check this out.