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Not for ourselves alone

Mount Barker High School

Thoughts from the grounds

I was rifling through my pigeon hole in the staff room the other day and came across a few thoughts written by Annie, one of our wonderful grounds people. Just reading it made my ‘Three Good Things’ list for the day. So I thought that I’d share it with you.

On my way to work the other day, a song came on the radio. The chorus was along the lines of, 'What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – stand a little taller.'

“My goodness!“ I exclaimed to myself. “Kelly Clarkson must have read Martin Seligman’s book because if that’s not about post-traumatic growth, I don’t know what is!”

In fact, I don’t know if Kelly Clarkson has read Flourish, but I believe today, as I have for many years, that concepts of positive psychology exist all around us and have done so for a very long time.

I see Martin Seligman as the ‘masterchef' of positive psychology. He has developed a recipe to make it possible for us to introduce positive psychology to school environments. As with all great chefs, I’m sure he wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I find myself constantly considering other ‘ingredients’ and how they relate to his recipe.

Take a pinch of Carla Rinaldi who speaks of the importance of the school environment in learning – a notion clearly being embraced at Mount Barker High School. However, as far as my role is concerned – I think we need to ‘lift the bar’. We need to stop considering public schools as second rate. I’d like to open discussion with relevant people to see how we can streamline and have higher standards in grounds.

I’ve heard many parents claim the state of the grounds played a large part in the final secondary schooling choice they made for their children. As one parent put it, “How could you not do well in an environment like that?” First impressions are so important and arriving in a beautiful environment lifts the spirits of staff, students and visitors to the school. Of course, we simply don’t have the resources to compete with some of the private schools, with some employing more than ten grounds or maintenance people. However, with improved communication between grounds committee and grounds staff, student involvement, reorganisation and perhaps a rethink of priorities, I feel optimistic that we can improve.

Carla Rinaldi also speaks of the importance of students teaching students. I’ve always known this as ‘the power of the peer group’. Isn’t this exactly why we should be teaching positive psychology in schools? I hear some say that certain students will never embrace positive psychology. I say, if the seed is planted amongst their peer group, it will spread naturally.

A dash of Stephen Covey, author of Principle Centered Leadership, who makes the point that if the failures or mistakes of our colleagues give us even a little hint of joy we have a problem, not them. It was after reading this and observing others doing it that I thought, “Wow, I’ve at times, been guilty of that!” As Covey puts it, a change comes over you when you help those people rather than enjoy their mistakes.

One of my favourite secret ingredients is one that Martin Seligman led me to himself. In Flourish he mentions the word, ‘Desiderata’. Not being fluent in Latin I googled it and found that it means, “What one desires”. I also found, however, a wonderful poem written by Max Ehrmann around 1920. It has hung in our house for the past year. I read some or all of it every day. For me it embodies what Martin Seligman and positive psychology are all about with lines such as, 'Nurture your strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune' and, 'Keep interested in your career however humble – it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.'


There are many other ingredients to be added. I intend to continue reading and listening and finding parallels to Martin Seligman’s work.

Martin Seligman challenges us to change the way we think about things. I find that extremely difficult at times but have found the more you practice the easier it becomes.

Finally, it is important to keep a 'negative rudder on our ship with positive sails' as Seligman writes in Flourish. I’ve had discussions with many people from many different backgrounds about positive psychology and Martin Seligman. I’ve heard and encouraged people to tell me their views, both positive and negative. I’ve almost hoped that someone could convince me why I shouldn’t believe this is a true step forward in education. So far, amid fierce debate, as a parent of two teenagers, I remain convinced that including positive psychology in education, and more particularly Martin Seligman’s recipe, could be enormously successful.

It seems to me that with advances in technology and communication we have enabled our children to communicate and connect instantly with the world and yet so many of them fail to understand and connect with themselves. Isn’t this what a good school should be trying to address?

Annie Sports Day

Annie getting into the mood for a fun sports day.

Wonderful Grounds Person