A positive school culture is an integral part of education for students to feel accepted, valued and respected. Today, educators play an important role in developing a culture that fosters student well-being to help them become competent and compassionate individuals. A teacher from Greenridge Primary School shares with us how her school encourages the practices of well-being as part of its culture.
“Positive education can be put into practice every day. It is a way of life,” Mdm Nur Jannah Bte Juri says. To promote positivity in teaching and learning at Greenridge Primary School, she took up the challenge to embark on a Positive Education Journey when she took over the school’s Student Well-Being Department in 2014. She has since been providing fellow teachers with practical resources to use in their classrooms.
Encouraged by the impact of positive education on the morale of both teachers and students in his previous schools, Principal Mr Chua Choon Hock first introduced the concepts of positive psychology to his teachers in 2013 and fully supported the Positive Education initiative led by Jannah. “Mr Chua believes that it is important for us to have positive emotions, build positive
relationships and find meaning in what we do so that coming to school will be more purposeful,” Jannah shares.
Practices for a Positive Life
Greenridge Primary School’s Positive Education approach aims to create a culture of well-being at the heart of quality education. Through the implementation of the school’s Positive Education programme, pupils learn life skills beyond the classroom to increase their learning capacity and help them build happy and successful lives.
“We researched on positive practices but we were unsure on how we could implement them in the classroom,” Jannah shares. “When my Vice-Principal, Mrs Tan-Kay Hwee Geak, chanced upon
a workshop by Research Scientist Dr Imelda Caleon on nurturing positivity in schools at NIE, she sent a team of Year Heads and Assistant Year Heads for it and that kick-started our Positive Education Journey,” Jannah adds.
Through close collaborations with Imelda, the school was introduced to the Gratitude packages, comprising tips and tools that can be applied to pupils’ daily lives according to their abilities and respective age groups (see box story below: Acts of Positivity).
“Through these (Positive Education) efforts, pupils understand the importance of expressing gratitude to someone and that it creates meaning in both the giver’s and recipient’s lives.”
– Mdm Nur Jannah Bte Juri, Greenridge Primary School
Every pupil also receives a student handbook at the beginning of the school year that includes an additional feature – gratitude cards. These cards act as tokens of appreciation for anyone who
has shown them kindness. Primary 1 pupils are encouraged to give one to their Primary 4 buddy at the end of the buddy programme, which aims to help new pupils settle well in a new
environment through a support system of care and guidance from their seniors.
Teachers also express their appreciation to pupils in the form of Praise Mails, which are addressed to their parents and sent by post. “In the past, parents only hear from teachers when their children misbehave, but now they get to know about the good things their children have done in school as well,” Jannah explains. “Parents have given us positive feedback on this initiative.”
Through these efforts, pupils understand the importance of expressing gratitude to someone and that it creates meaning in both the giver’s and recipient’s lives. “It also builds resilience when you
know that someone is there for you and that you are not alone,” she adds.
Positivity over Punishment
Aside from encouraging positive expression among pupils and teachers, Mr Yeo Wi Kiat, the school’s Discipline Master, also believes that the secret to effective discipline is to build relationships
proactively instead of reacting punitively to pupils’ misbehavior. This is known as Positive Discipline.
By developing Positive Discipline approaches in classrooms such as giving pupils the chance to explain their mistakes, pupils can actively reflect on their wrongdoings and learn from them.
The school also practises Senses in Harmony after recess to get pupils to settle down before heading back to their classes. Pupils engage in a short breathing exercise daily after recess while listening to calming classical music in the background. The music is also accompanied with simple instructions to guide their focus on the music and their breathing. This helps to calm pupils
down after their activity-filled recess by guiding them to refocus and be in a state of readiness for subsequent lessons.
Teachers as Role Models
To change the entire school’s culture, teachers have to constantly role-model positive behaviors and growth mindsets. It is the belief that people have limitless potential to learn and grow with practice, perseverance and effort.
As part of their weekly level meetings, book study sessions are organized in which every teacher reads a chapter of a book that discusses Positive Education before sharing their classroom
success stories and takeaways with one another. Over time, teachers realized that this benefits not just the pupils, but also themselves.
“Positive Education makes the good even better,” Jannah shares. “It cultivates positive attitudes, builds personal strengths and enables us to find deeper happiness in our lives and communities.”
“Positive Education cultivates positive attitudes, builds personal strengths and enables us to find deeper happiness in our lives and communities.”
– Jannah, on the value of Positive Education
Positive education does not end in school. “If we emphasize the importance of positive education to our pupils in school but if it is not practised at home, then the message will be lost,” Jannah says. As such, parents are informed about and guided through the school’s positive education efforts during meet-the-parents sessions. She hopes that this effort will encourage parents to continue to reinforce positive practices at home.
Jannah observes that pupils are generally more grateful and appreciative towards what they have now. “Research has shown that optimism about life increases after expressing gratitude. When
you look for the good and focus on it, you will start seeing better things coming into your life. This is why we should teach our children to view life with gratitude.”
Being part of a character-focused school with over 20 years of history, it is Jannah’s hope that all her pupils will eventually internalize these acts of positivity and develop holistically today, for their future. “The future belongs to those who believe in positivity, resilience and optimism to overcome challenges ahead.”