Education Wellbeing Youth

Farewell to the Graduating Class of 2025

Today is my 35th birthday.

By my reckoning by the time this year’s Kindergarten class graduate in 2025, I may well be in a position where someone might ask me to give a graduation speech for them.

So in the spirit of being prepared, here is what I hope to be able to say:

May I present to you, the Year Twelve Class of 2025.

It only feels like yesterday, when these kids walked through the doors of Kindergarten for the very first time. Some apprehensively, in tears clinging to their parents while others were more confident, wide-eyed with wonder and eager to take on all that school had to offer.

The changes we have seen in the education system since that summer’s day in 2012 have been remarkable. The Prime Minister of the time, Julia Gillard, believed that a back to basics curriculum along with overpriced school halls would bring about a revolution. Yet as we have seen in the past three decades that philosophy was never going to stand the test of time.

Regardless of how new the surrounds, how could a back to basics curriculum possibly have met these students’ needs?

You can read the rest of this speech at Online Opinion…

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 Social Justice Wellbeing

Impact of the Influential on Mental Illness

Appalled by some of the comments made by BBC personality Jeremy Clarkson last week, I wrote this piece. It has been published on the ABC website, The Drum.

“Imagine in the aftermath of a suicide on a busy rail network, trains don’t wait until body has been removed from tracks. Imagine the remains of the victim are left, while drivers are ordered to get the train back on schedule as quickly as possible. You can’t imagine that. Can you?” Read the full article on The ABC…

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

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Education Engagement & Motivation

Just a Boy Who Likes Turtles

Of late, in my talks around the country, I have read this poem

I first heard this poem as part of a talk that my friend and unoffical mentor Richard Gerver gave in the UK last year – which you can view at the end of this post.

The overwhelming response from the audience when I read this poem is that, “Wow, that’s pretty bloody good… and how old did you say the kid was who wrote that?” – He was nine.

Imagine the reaction of the audience when I then tell that his teacher’s response to this poem was less than complimentary.

You see the problem was this kid was supposed to write a poem about what it is like to be a turtle.

Richard Gerver uses this poem as an example of what happens when we focus only on achieving a certain outcome.

I argue it also shines a light on what it means to genuinely engage students.

In this case, the teacher believes Clint hasn’t conformed to what was expected and as such saw no value in his poem. The teacher mistakes conformity (or the lack there of) with a lack of engagement.

It’s probably also worth noting that according to his teachers, Clint was one of those kids. “Maybe mild ADHD, lives in his own world, attendance could be better etc.”

My last blog post explored what genuine engagement really looks like and argued that Kids Shouldn’t Go to Schools – rather schools should go to kids.

A pre-service teacher who was in a lecture I gave at the University of Wollongong this week said the poem was “Deep.” Another likened it to something “A young Lennon might have written – he was a pommie too right?”

Maybe comparing to Lennon is going a touch far, but imagine if these two were teaching Clint.

I reckon his ADHD might settle down, and his attendance might improve a little… and who’s to say his own little world is all that bad anyway?

I really hope Richard can somehow let Clint know that Aussie teachers love his poem!

Click here to listen to Richard’s talk in full.


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…

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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…

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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.

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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?

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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.

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