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Not for ourselves alone

Mount Barker High School

PERMA for Staff

 Once a term teachers from the Heysen Partnership schools meet to share how they are embedding positive education into their practice. This sharing allows us to learn from each other, to have an overview of what is happening throughout the partnership, and to keep the momentum going.

The theme for this term’s meeting was PERMA for staff, as we cannot teach Positive Education if we do not look after ourselves and practice it in our own lives. Martin Seligman said, “Learn it, Live it, Teach it, Embed it”. Positive Education is not about activities in classrooms, it is about how we do things and how we build relationships. Before we teach it we need to embrace it and model it.

Lots of ideas were shared. Strangely food seemed to feature in many of them! Shared morning teas, birthday cakes, shared lunches…
Amongst other things were ‘What, went well’ (also known as ‘panning for gold’, ‘counting your blessings’, ‘hunting the good stuff’…) at the start of each meeting, and on boards around the school, giving gratitude – through cards, certificates, acknowledgement at meetings, and sharing social events.
Walking together, practising mindfulness, participating in a Chi Kung class at 8am and having a ‘bell of success’ in the staff room were other practices.

Through the many ideas came a sense of care, support and appreciation of each other. It was a great meeting and we all went away with lots of ideas.

Last week was Book Week – what has that to do with PERMA for staff? On Friday at Mount Barker High School we saw a great example of staff doing something together that not only built their PERMA but also that of the students.

Our students were having a casual day to raise money for charity so the staff decided to finish Book Week by coming dressed as their favourite literary character – but we didn’t tell the students!

Virtually every staff member was dressed up – our front office was manned by fairies, our library run by a witch, Hermione Granger had charge of the special unit, which was strangely staffed by a fairy, a tiger and a camel! English was taught by one of MacBeth’s witches and Stanley from Holes. Maths was taught by a dragon and a pirate and science by James Bond, the Cat in the Hat and the Mad Hatter!

One of the great things about the day was seeing the students’ faces as they noticed first one teacher and then another and then another… They were soon busy trying to see what the next teacher was dressed like and guess who we were!

My favourite reaction was my year 9 Art class. I was in a meeting and so they started the lesson with another teacher – dressed as Bruno from the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, in striped pyjamas and white hat. I then arrived dressed as Paddington Bear, complete with bear suit, blue duffle coat, red hat, Wellington boots and carrying a brown suitcase. They did not blink, they did not ask a question, they did not even take a second glance. They went on with their work as if this was normal practice. I think they were so stunned they decided it was safest to act as if nothing was different!


On Friday night our SRC held a quiz night to raise money for the 40 Hour Famine. Whilst preparing for it they discussed the day and some of the comments they made were reported back to the staff by the teacher who runs the SRC.

“They were extremely appreciative of the effort that the teachers made in dressing up for book week. To quote them; ‘I was never more proud of my school than at that moment’, ‘That’s what I love about the teachers at this school. Their commitment is great- the way that they all got dressed up’. Those were the two comments that stuck in my mind, but they spent a lot of time talking about it. Students in my classes all day were talking about it as well, as I’m sure they were in everyone’s, but I wanted to share those comments with everyone to make sure that you all know how much the students appreciated your efforts.”

It was a great day and had the result of raising the positive emotion, engagement and relationships for all involved – both staff and students!