The Impossible...or The Possible?

September 18, 2016


'Through passion, drive, coaching, a sense of entitlement and hope for all.'


How does a chicken cross the road? 

Aristotle would have answered this common question with the statement, 'to actualise its potential.'


In implementing Positive Education throughout Mark Oliphant B-12 College, a low socioeconomic school of approximately 1600 students in Adelaide's Northern suburbs, there were a number of common questions asked by staff;


How will we implement Positive Education in a B-12 school?

Why do we need another program in our already bulging curriculum?

What outcomes will it have on our students? 

And, regularly the question and argument of, is this 'wellbeing for the wealthy' as we aren't like the private schools across the nation who are integrating this into their school culture. 

The answers were similar to that of Aristotle and the commonly asked chicken question. To support our students in realising their actual potential and equip them with skills and dispositions to live a safe, happy and fulfilling life. All children and young people deserve high hope and aspirations including those living in disadvantage with complex lives and backgrounds. Our children and young people at Mark Oliphant B-12 College deserve a sense of entitlement and a flourishing existence.  


The question of how couldn't be answered so simply, not in the initial stages. 

Our journey began in July 2012 when our principal, Lynne Symons and Coordinator of Wellbeing, Maryjane Tenison Woods attended the Adelaide Thinkers in Residence Positive Psychology Conference. Our school acknowledged that, whilst it was important to concentrate and have a rigour around literacy, comprehension and numeracy, there also needed to be a strong focus on the self-esteem, achievement and wellbeing of our students. Our students deserved the right to flourish and the skills and dispositions to enable this. 


At the completion of the Discovering Positive Education Course delivered by the staff at Geelong Grammar in 2013, three staff (who at the time were all in Primary Years) returned to work inspired and ready to apply the research and thinking across our college. How did this happen......slowly. We called it, drip feed to immersion. 

The focus of the drip feed to immersion method was to create a common language. Dr Robert Marzano (Interview, 2008) has suggested that the educational field is lacking a common language/model of instruction to describe effective teaching. Having a comprehensive model in which everybody talks about teaching in the same way communicates a message that “we are serious about good teaching…”


This must be the same for wellbeing. A rigour of wellbeing and a common language. Wellbeing is just as important, if not more important as the 'academic' curriculum areas.  

Positive Education in its initial stages was drip fed through building a common language across the college, focussing on a construct of Seligman's PERMA each term, and the implicit and explicit teaching of a character strength each week from birth through to year 12. Highlights over the initial stages of Positive Education included the introduction of the Praise Pod a mechanism to celebrate the achievements of Early Years students, gratitude activities and days across the college, a PERMA forest of success stories and gratitude cards in the front office to create a positive culture, a day for FLOW in the senior years to experience total immersion and engagement. Other Positive Education features across the college included a common growth mindset language from Birth to Year 12 and the mantra of YET and character strengths assemblies and awards.


Through drip feeding we created a common language; from bucket filling, to love bombing and the power of yet. But, was this enough? 


The next blog will share our journey to immersion. 


A common language provides a framework for a way to talk about wellbeing just as it does with curriculum and instruction. It enables seamless transitions throughout a school or college, and supports all children and young people on their flourishing journey. Wellbeing must be rigorous.






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