However I’m particularly passionate about designing and delivering ‘Positive Education’ programs in schools in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. This is because in my work as an executive and leadership coach I regularly see at first hand how many ‘successful’ adults still struggle to find the right balance between well-being and engagement and actually find themselves in a place of distress, despite their high levels of education, wealth, choices and opportunities. In fact recent global research tells us that although the majority of people are doing ‘OK’ in life, only about 20% of the population is truly flourishing.
‘Positive Education’ is about equipping young people with the skills of character development and well-being alongside those required for academic success. It is about the application of the modern body of research from Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology in schools, much of which has been generated in Australia, considered the world leader in this space. It is now also gaining global momentum through the International Positive Education Network (IPEN).
Positive Education aims to create flourishing school communities, which includes the teachers and parents too! It is little bit like being on a plane when the oxygen mask comes down. We all know we have to put ours on first before we help others. The same applies to well-being. So we have to help the adults to understand better how to look after themselves so they in turn can help young people.
Over the last year or so I have been working with The British International School in Shanghai (BISS) Puxi on a range of Positive Education interventions that have built on the school’s existing good practice on ‘Education for Character’ and ‘High Performance Learning’. BISS Puxi strongly believes that developing children and young adults as whole people is vital to their success, both academically and later in life.
I initially worked with all of the school leadership team and staff to help them explore the requirements for building and sustaining both well-being and engagement within their professional and personal lives. I shared existing research and good practice in the education sector and introduced some evidence-based activities such as strengths assessments and coaching conversations that can build help resilience, well-being and goal striving.
I then visited the school again to work with over 30 leaders and staff on the development of their coaching skills. My sessions provided participants with a deeper understanding of the positive gains for the full school community (students, staff, parents) of adopting a coaching model at BISS Puxi. The practical approach has also provided the participants with a coaching skills toolkit that is allowing them to more skillfully and confidently approach coaching conversations, with colleagues and students.
I also gave two very well-received talks to over 150 parents on ‘Resilient & Resourceful Young People’ including the importance of flourishing, mindfulness, strengths discovery and a range of other topics.
Just last month in April 2015 I was back with BISS Puxi again exploring the ideas of flourishing and mental toughness with all senior school students. My work with students has focused upon ways that they can flourish and develop mental toughness in themselves, their families and friends. Mental Toughness is a model that supports better well-being, learning, creative thinking, academic accomplishment, future employability and virtuous citizenship. This concept mirrors closely BISS Puxi’s aims in relation to the Cognitive Curriculum and the Behaviour and Social Graces philosophy at the school.
The student workshops were both interactive and fun. Some key questions that students discussed with each other included “What are you doing when you are at your best?”, “What were the challenges that you have faced and how did you overcome them?”, “Who do you think might be a mentally tough person or people? Why?”. The students also enjoyed strength-spotting in each other, coaching conversations with friends to look at how to develop these strengths further and meditation techniques that helped them to develop mindfulness in order to better manage stressful emotions and prepare for exams. Head of Key Stage 3 at BISS Puxi Andy Lancaster said “I was fortunate to participate in the sessions myself with the students and I know that they found Clive to be thoroughly engaging and open to questions that they raised.”
On the most recent visit parents also enjoyed similar challenges, both in an evening presentation on Mental Toughness and a daytime workshop on Coaching Conversation Skills. The parents were very interested and expressed a keen desire to build upon the coaching skills learnt and to share these with their families, each other and the wider school community.
Lastly I got to spend some time with leaders and teachers looking at how the school can incorporate and integrate the techniques and ideas learned into the BISS Puxi Well-being Strategy and the Pastoral Curriculum to support students and the school community to flourish.
The School is looking forward to seeing the impact that these Positive Education experiences have for everyone involved in terms of ‘living well and learning better’ and to sharing it’s good practice more widely.