Change Engagement & Motivation Wellbeing

Three questions to mull over…

Assuming you and your school place student welfare/wellbeing high on your list of priorities, here are three questions to consider for 2012…

1. Who is the significant adult in the life of a 21st Century student?

How and where do they spend most of their time? With whom do they converse most with? Is it their parents? Is it fair to assume this or otherwise? Is this important?*

2. How connected do your students feel to your school?

Two questions you need to ask of your students are:

i. Do you feel able to be yourself at school?

ii. Is there at least one adult in the school community you feel you can go to with an issue?

If students can’t say, “Yes” to both these questions, then they may not be as connected to your school as you may think. Is this important?*

3. What is more important; how well a student succeeds, or how well she fails?

Do you reward students for taking a chance and coming up short? Do you encourage students to “learn from their mistakes” or to “learn by avoiding mistakes?” Is this important?*

*Whilst everyone will have different answers to each question. I can tell you that the answer to each of the “Is it important?” questions is, “Yes.”

Media Wellbeing Youth

The Kids Are Alright – In the National Times

Fed up with the constant media attacks on our youth, I sat down at the laptop and wrote this. And the National Times decided to publish it…

Another day, another media attack on the youth of Australia. This time it’s the turn of Channel Nine’s A Current Affair, to have a report, “All parents should see.” It claims to show, “What your kids are getting up to.”

A quick look at the headlines in the last six months would lead you to believe that most of our youth are alcohol fuelled members of fight clubs, who in between cyber-bullying and sexting, rate their sexual partners’ prowess via root rating sites. How teens find the time to do all of this in between planking, dealing drugs and causing chaos on our roads in their P-plated cars is anyone’s guess.  Read my full article at the National Times

Sign up for email updates here, share with your friends or connect on Facebook or Twitter…


Five Ways to Wellbeing

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Felicia Huppert. Felicia is a well-known researcher in the field of wellbeing, and has advised and informed the UK Governments policy making in the area of mental capital and wellbeing.

Amongst other things, she introduced me to the work of the New Economics Foundation who, in their own words,  look at economics, “as if people and the planet mattered.”  Based on the latest scientific research the NEF have produced the “Five Ways to Wellbeing.”


With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

Be active…

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

Take notice…

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

Keep learning

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.


Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

If you (or your school) are looking to take a more proactive approach to wellbeing, as a starting point, I think you could do a lot worse than explore how you can embed the Five Ways to Wellbeing in what you do.

In fact, if put into a school context, I think the Five Ways to Wellbeing presents a nice little values/mission package for your school…

Sign up for email updates here, share with your friends or connect on Facebook or Twitter…

Media Wellbeing Youth

Talking Youth Depression on Channel 10

In case you missed my appearance on Channel 10 discussing youth depression and wellbeing, you can watch the interview here.

Please share it with your staff at your school, friends or family.

We need to keep on talking about it…

Sign up for email updates here, share with your friends or connect on Facebook or Twitter…


Media Wellbeing Youth

Catch Dr Suzy Green and Me on Channel 10 – Monday 6.30pm


Just a quick note to let you know that last week I recorded an interview for the 6.30 Report with George Negus. It is due to be aired on Monday 15th September at (guess when?) 6.30pm on Channel 10 in Australia.

The subject of the story is youth depression and how education can address student wellbeing in a more proactive way. As well as me, Dr Suzy Green from the Positive Psychology Institute in Sydney also features.

If you can’t manage to see it tomorrow, I’ll post the video of it on my site in the coming days.

Sign up for email updates here, share with your friends or connect on Facebook or Twitter…


Education Engagement & Motivation Mindset Wellbeing

Label kids – Limit kids.

On Friday 22nd July, my colleague Ray Francis and I had the privilege of presenting a workshop at the AIS Pastoral Care Conference. The keynote speaker was James Nottingham. He gave an insightful, entertaining and at times, touching talk on the concept of Mindsets.

Mindsets 101

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

Mindsets in Education

Using these definitions, let’s assume that growth mindsets are essential in nurturing a genuine love of learning. What does your school do to promote that?

Having spent time with Carol Dweck, James Nottingham spoke with passion and authority on the huge disservice we do to kids when we label them – even with labels we think are complimentary.

He and Dweck suggest that by labeling kids – we limit them. With labels like bright or gifted we create children with “fixed” mindsets who are afraid to take risks for fear of failure and losing their “status”.We create kids (and parents) who are only concerned with marks or grades, rather than the process of learning.

Then there are the children who underperform because they’ve been given the negative labels, as Nottingham mentioned, at school he visited, the groups were Diamond, Gold, Silver and Charcoal.

My immediate reflection of James’ talk was to ask how many staffrooms are gripped by a fixed mindset? You may remember my Pressure Fear Relief talk touches on a similar topic.

How many schools sell themselves on the notion that they are the “top-ranking” school in the HSC? How many schools publish their NAPLAN scores as a medal of educational honour?

How many teachers have a fixed mindset about ability and learning? (according to Nottingham about 80%!) And how does this impact on the education of our students?

Sign up for email updates here, share with your friends or connect on Facebook or Twitter…

Media Youth

What is it with Rs in Education… This week: Root Rating?!?!

The (anti) social media habits of schoolkids have taken up a lot of newspaper and online column space this week in Australia. The latest craze to take hold of our teens (doesn’t it seem like only last month it was planking?) is to “rate roots” via ingeniously titled “Root Rater” pages on Facebook.

For the benefit of my international readers, “rooting” is the uniquely Australian euphemism for getting to know someone very well.

The accepted protocol seems to be: root, rate and add a comment if further detail is required. Unsurprisingly, in the examples in the media this week,  this detail is not often complimentary. As well as identifying some schools where root-rating was prevalent, a fair amount of questions were asked as to what schools could do (if anything) to address the problem.

The public reaction has ranged from the nonplussed to the extreme – here’s my take on the reaction…

1. It did NOT happen in your day – Too many people equate Facebook with the note that was passed around class. Granted the behaviour is the same, but the consequences are far more extreme. One example of such a site had 1200 members and this does not account for the people who have search for and found such sites since the media exposure. And of course, unlike notes, the “Net” cannot be thrown away. Interestingly, the people who compare social media sites with notes range from (obviously) technophobe parents to (bizarrely) people who are well versed in social media.

2. Kids WON’T report it – Children don’t report bullying. The reasons are too varied and complex to go into here, but it’s safe to say, if kids won’t report what may be considered “standard” playground bullying, they are even less likely to report incidents of being the subject of Root Rater sites. There is another factor at play as well, which is unique to cyber-bullying; and that is that kids believe if they report cyber-bullying, the technology will be taken away from them. Despite it being the source of such angst, they are more worried about losing access to the phones or computers that connects them with their peers.

3. Ignorance is NEGLIGENCE – I’m not saying parents need to be able to set up a wireless network, rather they have to get their heads out of the sand and understand that kids need guidance on the net, just as they do in other areas of life (if not more so). Putting on NetNanny or similar software is only a superficial (and probably the least effective) step. Parents should be aware what, why, how and when their kids interact with the Net. Parents should help their kids navigate the online world, just as they do the offline world… and young teens should not have a laptop or phone in their room… bottom line.

4. Social Media is NOT the enemy – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in most schools are banned. If we cannot access them in school, how can we demonstrate the amazing potential of social media? How can we teach kids how to be global online citizens? By banning them in schools we further reinforce the notion that we, as adults think social media is not important, or just a waste of time. With regard to our kids, it is not the tools that are the problem, it is the way in which they are being used. Why not engage kids in school by using these tools for good… examples like The Invisible Hearts Project or How to Build a School in 3 Hours would be good starting points to build incredible learning experiences.

Sign up for email updates here, share with your friends or connect on Facebook or Twitter…

Education Wellbeing

An alternate three Rs for the 21st century?

While the traditional three Rs (reading, writing & arithmetic) were only aimed at the students, these alternate three Rs would serve as an operating system for the whole learning community; students, staff, parents and the wider community.

Relationships – Humans are social beings and as such positive relationships are key to human flourishing. As well as nurturing the skills to develop positive inter-personal relationships, we also need to see the relationship between who we are, what we do, the impact of our actions and how we react emotionally. To be able to do this, we need to be given the opportunity to reflect.

Reflection – We are living in the most stimulating time in history. Having hundreds of TV channels to choose from, social media updates to keep on top of, smartphones buzzing in our pockets we have become enslaved to the technology. We feel guilty if we have any spare time on our hands and as such, we find something to do… like updating your Facebook status to say “just chilling out on the beach.” We have created a world in which we see little value in reflecting on the What, Why and How of our experiences. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to say, “Nothin” when asked, “What did you do at school today?”

Resilience – The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030 depression will be the largest cause of illness in the Western World. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and serves as a protective factor against depression. It has become something of a buzzword at the moment in education. Whilst schools do a good job of promoting physical health (PE/health classes, healthy canteens, no-smoking and OH&S policies etc) I believe schools need to be more proactive in nurturing the mental health of their learning community.

To what extent does, could or should your school/organisation value these alternate three Rs?

Sign up for email updates here, share with your friends or connect on Facebook or Twitter…

Change Education Wellbeing

Positive Schools Conference in Fremantle

Today I had the privilege of giving a key-note talk at the Positive Schools Conference in Fremantle.

This was a great opportunity for me to engage with some of the leading minds in Australia in the field of mental health, wellbeing and education.

I gave a talk based on my Drowning not Learning blog post from last year. It seemed to go down pretty well with the 400-strong audience.

I’ll have video snippets of it up on my site in the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow I’ll be keen to attend Steve Biddulph’s workshop on “The Road to Manhood –  How to make pathways to being good men.”

I’m already looking forward to speaking at the Brisbane event where over 700 people will be in attendance…

If you heard me speak (either at Perth, or even earlier this year), I’d be keen to get your feedback… you can tell me what you think on the testimonial page.

Sign up for email updates (top-right of screen), share with your friends or connect on Facebook or Twitter…

Change Education Engagement & Motivation Wellbeing

Have you read The National Times today?

My latest article has been published by Fairfax Media’s National Times.

The most popular course at Harvard University is not medicine or dentistry. Neither is it engineering or even law. It is positive psychology, the field of psychology that is sometimes dismissed as ‘‘happy classes’’.

Tal Ben Shahar first offered the class in 2002 and eight students enrolled. By the third year 855 undergraduates attended the course making it the most popular class at Harvard. 

How could it be that at one of the most respected universities in the world, America’s top scholars need lessons in how to be happy?

Closer to home, of the one-third of high school students who walk through the gates of an Australian university nationally, about a fifth will drop out – at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion  to the taxpayer.

The reasons for dropping out are complex, but rarely related to academic ability.

Read the full article at The National Times. 

Sign up for email updates (top-right of screen), share with your friends or connect on Facebook or Twitter…