Brave children

Positive education opens up a world of opportunities. It increases levels of happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem and positive self-attribution. Positive psychologists Maslow and Seligman believe that schoolchildren can be taught skills that increase their resilience, positive emotion, engagement and meaning in life.

Well those skills were definitely not around in the minds of my educators!

When I was in high school our educators were keen to heap praise and encouragement on those at the top of the class. We plebeians were patted on the head and encouraged to take a seat down the back of the classroom. We learned a lot down the back but I doubt it was on the curriculum.

I was assigned to the music class when I entered Year 7. All the smart and talented girls were in that class. However, I never had a chance to dance my fingers along black and white keys or strum strings until they broke. I was told I didn’t have the temperament for music or the resilience to handle the cranky old nun who had the habit (excuse the pun) of slapping a ruler across any fingers that took a wrong step.

Vocational guidance tests were the bane of my life. I never thought them a valid or a reliable tool to measure my intelligence as they never asked me anything I knew! According to these tests my future looked grim and I accepted this as my lot in life. But gradually my sense of self-determination and resilience grew, directing me toward my untapped potential and self-realisation.

In the video below, master of positive health and psychological well-being, Carol Ryff talks about the importance of happiness and resilience to make the most of our capacities, set goals and make the world a better place.

The highest of all human good is the realization of one’s potential

When I left school I switched from course to course and job to job. One day a friend asked me to go to Canberra and help out with a youth club. I had nothing better to do so I went. I found people who were genuinely interested in me and helped me find direction in my life. I enrolled in university to study education. Life was beginning to change.

I slowly began to realize I was braver, stronger and smarter than I had thought – and I was going to prove it. I had been schooled with a fixed mindset and that needed to change. Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is a fixed trait with little room to grow and develop.

On the other hand, you can change your mindset to one of growth. In fact, if a person has high levels of self-efficacy they can perform better academically – well beyond their measured levels of ability and prior performance. Psychological and environmental factors matter even more than cognitive ones for students’ academic performance. Learn more from the video below.

Transforming the meaning of effort and difficulty

I was determined and motivated and felt deep within myself a longing for knowledge and success. My brain ached to be educated. So with positive people by my side I started to shift toward a mindset of growth and resilience. Professor Edward Deci believes that if we are autonomously motivated our levels of performance, wellness and engagement are increased. In the video below he outlines his self-determination theory for optimal wellness and optimal performance.

Becoming more autonomously motivated

Now with my life heading in the right direction and with a fair amount of self-determination, resilience and autonomy I began to experience FLOW.

When my baby went off to school I went back to study. I decided to start an art course followed by a computer course to build up my confidence and skills. I painted this picture below for one of my 23 delightful grandchildren, Anastasia Grace, with the inscription…

If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever

Painting made with love from Mum Mum
Painted with love from Mum Mum

My dream was to walk across a University stage in a cap and gown. I applied at the most prestigious university in Sydney – always aiming high! I was unsuccessful and received a letter from the Dean informing me I was not academically up to it. They didn’t take into account any of my life experiences such as raising 13 adorable children. They probably thought all I could do was change babies, cook, clean, iron and drive a massive van around!

Perrottet Family
John, me, Madeleine, Alexander, Dominic, Charles, Joseph (in Heaven), Julien, Sophia, Oliver, Gabriel, Francesca, Veronique, Jean-Claude and Natasha.

So one day while I was reading the newspaper (yes, Dean I can read!) I came across an advertisement for Open University, Australia. I applied and was accepted. I took courses at a couple of different institutions before transferring to Monash University enrolling in a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Community Welfare and Counselling. I graduated with a Distinction average. I then upgraded my Diploma in Teaching to a Bachelor of Education and now I am studying a Masters in Positive Psychology!

Empower yourself, become master of your environment and surround yourself with positive people and you can fulfill your dreams.

Anne Perrottet Monash University
A day I will never forget.