1-250-514-8459 tamara@posminds.com
Why Canadian Educators Don’t Need to Reinvent the Wheel When It Comes to Mental Health

Why Canadian Educators Don’t Need to Reinvent the Wheel When It Comes to Mental Health

Canada isn’t the only Country experiencing a mental health crisis. Globally, the total number of people with depression was estimated to exceed 300 million in 2015. A similar number suffer from some type of anxiety disorders. And many experience both simultaneously (comorbidity). The consequences of these disorders on families, individuals, workplaces and schools are massive. Depression is ranked by WHO as the single largest contributor to global disability (7.5% of all years lived with disability in 2015); anxiety disorders are ranked 6th (3.4%). Depression is also the major contributor to suicide deaths, which number close to 800 000 per year (WHO, 2017)

As a mother of four I have watched as my children and their classmates are expected to cope with levels of stress far beyond reasonable. The normalizing of this stress has created a frog in the pot situation. If you drop a frog into boiling water it will immediately jump out, but if you put a frog in cool water and slowly bring it to a boil, the frog won’t notice the heat until it is too late. (sorry frog lovers) Watching the children in my community, the friends of my sons and daughters, become agoraphobic, failing to make it through on year of University after graduating at the top of their high school class, or not sleeping or eating I was inspired to find some answers.

In 2006 a few teachers at Geelong Grammar School were noticing the same challenge,an increase in depression, anxiety, and stress at the school. They discovered research out of UPENN that was making positive impact on wellbeing which in return decreased stress, anxiety and depression.  Martin Seligman, the founding father of positive psychology,  brought his family and research team to Geelong Grammar School (GGS) and provided the catalyst for what would become one of the most significant innovations in the world of educational psychology. By 2008, the term ‘Positive Education’ had been coined at GGS and the first large-scale training of GGS staff was underway. These first steps eventually led to the creation of Geelong Grammar’s Institute of Positive Education which employs 25 full time staff and has trained over 10,000 educators around the world from over 500 different schools and organizations. 

The Positive Education Approach

Positive Education is a whole school approach to student and staff wellbeing that brings together the science of Positive Psychology with best practice teaching, to encourage and support individuals and communities to flourish.

Positive Education has transformed the way GGS approaches education, delivering a greater depth and breadth of exceptional education. In an ever-changing society, schools must adopt new roles that help support our students embrace the complexities of next-generation learning and living. Mental illness and psychological distress continue to increase, with initial onset during formative years. Positive Education has complemented and enhanced GGS’s holistic approach to education, by supporting, protecting and empowering students to strengthen their relationships, build positive emotions, enhance resilience and enable the exploration of meaning and purpose in one’s life. Through committing to Positive Education, GGS has shown that schools can, and should, consider health, wellbeing, and flourishing to be as important as traditional academic learning.

In consultation with world-experts in Positive Psychology and based on Seligman’s PERMA approach we developed a ‘Model for Positive Education’ – an applied framework comprising of six domains: Positive Relationships, Positive Emotions, Positive Health, Positive Engagement, Positive Accomplishment, and Positive Purpose.

This model has been augmented with four fundamental active processes that underpin successful and sustained implementation of Positive Education: Learn It, Live It, Teach It, Embed It. These processes bring the Model to life in a school and are grounded in and informed by GGS’s extensive, unique experience in assisting schools around Australia and the world to implement sustainable change.

Through regular training opportunities, staff and parents ‘learn’ about Positive Psychology and are encouraged to ‘live’ the principles of Positive Education by modelling the behaviours in their actions and interactions with each other and with students. ‘Teach it’ refers to the delivery of Positive Education skills and knowledge to students via two distinct pathways. Dedicated or ‘explicit’ Positive Education classes are taught to students from Grades 5 through 10 and are devoted to cultivating wellbeing; providing students with time to reflect meaningfully on the relevance of concepts to their lives. The ‘implicit’ teaching of Positive Education refers to the infusion of wellbeing concepts into pre-existing subject areas so that academic objectives are approached in ways that also support flourishing. ‘Embed it’ refers to the broader vision of creating a whole-school culture and community for wellbeing. The Learn It, Live It, Teach It, Embed It processes are additive, synergistic, and dynamic as they continually augment and inform each other.

Although it remains a mystery why Australia is so far ahead of North America in the realm of proactive mental health, I am delighted to help North Americans to avoid reinventing the wheel. We are pleased to announce the first of our North American training dates has been set.

Learn More


World Health Organization. (2017). Depression and other common mental disorders: global health estimates (No. WHO/MSD/MER/2017.2). World Health Organization.

Want To Get Hired? Lead With Emotional Intelligence

Want To Get Hired? Lead With Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is popping up everywhere- from Facebook to LinkedIn there’s more and more buzz about why EI is the new IQ. Emotional intelligence includes your ability to recognize what emotion you are feeling and to manage that emotion in a way that allows you to use the emotion rather than becoming overwhelmed by it. It also includes your ability to accurately interpret and respond appropriately to the emotions of other people. It is involved in your capacity for resilience, motivation, empathy, reasoning, stress management, communication, and your ability to read and navigate sticky social situations. Understanding the strengths of your own Emotional Intelligence and being able to convey these strengths on a CV, resume, college application or in an interview will help you in achieving your goals.

Once thought of as part of the soft skills of employment, leaders are now recognizing that hiring enthusiastic employees who have a growth mindset and high emotional intelligence matters. It’s easier to provide training for the so-called hard skills that to help someone increase their EI.

Daniel Goleman, author of What Makes a Leader, suggests working these types of questions into any interview process:

Self-awareness Question

“Tell us about a time that one of your weaknesses had a negative impact on your work team’s performance.”

Self-regulation Question

“Tell us about a situation in which you became frustrated in a professional setting and you were able to redirect these feelings in a positive manner.”

Social Skills Question

“Describe a situation involving your work team where you were able to manage conflict

within the group to help them move forward.”

Empathy Question

“Share an actual situation that happened at work that showcases your ability to consider

other people’s feelings in your decision making.”

Motivation Question

“Is there a work-related situation you can tell us about where you put a lot of energy and

effort into an important project that went unnoticed or unrecognized by others?”

Good candidates arrive ready to answer questions like these, great candidates address the areas of motivation, empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation and social skills right in the application or on their CV.

Selling Yourself Means Knowing Yourself


If you are interested in emotions, learning about them will satisfy your curiosity. If you depend upon emotional knowledge in your job, learning more about emotions would likely help.

John Mayer

Taking time to learn more about your unique strengths might mean reading Strengths 2.0 and taking the Clifton Strengths Finder assessment.

It could also mean understanding your values in action through a free VIA Character Strength Assessment.

Check out this list of assessment tools I love.

Once you have a list of words that describe you in, pick the ones that feel like a vital part of who you are and incorporate them into how you describe yourself. Weave them into your CV or cover letter or use them in interview answers. When you know yourself and can speak confidently about both your areas of strength and the areas where you could grow, you show yourself to have Emotional Intelligence. If you think you need a little help increasing your EI this blog post has some great exercises. Or check out the fabulous Ramona Hacker’s TED talk.

Becoming more aware of emotional intelligence has no downside. When you increase your self-awareness you level-up your ability to interact with people in a way that allows you to get more of what you want. Make yourself impossible to ignore!

“No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.”

Jack Welch