Editor’s Note: This article accompanies Sulynn’s description of the National Convention on Positive Psychology, which occurred April 25-26, 2013 in Naga City in the Philippines.
“How can positive education play a role for special needs children?” After I finished my keynote at the National Convention of Positive Psychology, this was one of many questions that enthusiastic educators from around the Philippines asked.Zest for learning was apparent from the start. Armed with glistening eyes and notepads lovingly provided by Ateneo de Naga University (AdNU), they copied notes furiously as I brought them through a historical journey of positive education. As well as learning about Geelong Grammar School and the Penn Resilience Program, they also got to experience the 3 Blessings Exercise and to give each other a massage to get the blood flowing when we reached 3PM, the sleepy hour of the afternoon.
When they learned how two schools in Singapore had begun taking beginning steps on the positive education journey, I saw more people whipping out cameras to take pictures of the slides. There was an audible buzz of conversation among themselves, almost as if ideas were exploding in their minds.
Mindful of the need to turn inspiration into action, I posed a challenge in the last slide: “What can you do to bring Positive Education to your school system?” They were then given heart-shaped post-its upon which to write down their intentions.
“To focus on things that can help students and also appreciating their efforts, strengths, understand their weaknesses and make them SMILE.”
“I will convince my school administrators to apply/incorporate Positive Education in my school, especially on Teachers training and visioning.”
“I can make a difference to one student at a time.”
“I will focus on the community’s youth and help and assist them to find their passions, make them aware of their strengths and find a life worth living for.”
As I read each one of the post-its on the wall, the message was loud and clear to me. Positive education appeals to the very core of Filipino educators because they are in their jobs to make a difference. While they might begin with the thought of one student in mind, their vision encompasses the whole school community.
Chatting with some of them afterward, I felt humbled by their motivation and quest to find out the latest in psychology to inform their practice.
I also learned more about the interaction between culture and well-being. Culture can be an obstacle if we allow it to be, influenced by practices that are decades old. It can also be a powerful enabler if people come together and leverage their strengths. Filipinos thrive on relationships and family. Given that strong relationships are a crucial pillar for a flourishing life, I believe this is the area where the seeds of positive education will show first signs of growth.I am confident that the Filipino love affair with positive psychology is not one-off. As the conference drew to a close, I received numerous requests for my slides, endless questions about how to apply the ideas. People took a mind-boggling number of photographs. A month on, I am still receiving thank-you notes from the attendees, as well as emails sharing how they proposed to their school management to include elements of positive education in their systems.
It is no wonder then, that a smile emerges on my face even as I write this. 🙂
Yeo, S.-E. (2011). Resilience, character strengths and flourishing: A positive education workshop for Singapore teachers. Capstone for the MAPP degree, University of Pennsylvania.
All images are used courtesy of Sulynn Choong.