Dear Shipley Families,
As I begin looking forward to next year, I am excited to share a bit more about our plans to move forward with Positive Education
, the approach to educational practice that promotes both academic excellence as well as students’ character and well-being. Components of Positive Education have long been part of our DNA and strategic plan, as seen through our SEED (Social, Emotional, and Ethical Development) initiative, among other efforts. Implementing Positive Education will allow us to incorporate some of the best evidence-based education practices from around the world into our community, strengthening the excellent programs and initiatives that we already have in the process. As I have communicated before, we will begin to integrate Positive Education into our entire system of practice at Shipley during the 2017-18 school year. We will formally begin the process with our colleagues this summer and then introduce it to our families and students in the fall.
Our commitment to Positive Education at Shipley is at once a transformational opportunity and an extension of who we long have been as a school. The science and research behind Positive Psychology, on which Positive Education is based, clearly show that identifying a person’s strengths and focusing on developing skills to cultivate and leverage those strengths (rather than on “fixing” one’s faults) leads to greater well-being and better academic and social outcomes. Based on our faculty’s historical experience working with students, this approach has resonated with me and many others in the community.
The approach also reflects our ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of our students. We know that approaches informed by the science of Positive Psychology make an incredible difference in helping our students to build the confidence to take productive academic and social risks, and in turn to grow and develop both their intellectual capacity and their character. Investing in Positive Education at a community-wide level will place the Positive Psychology approaches at the heart of our work in all areas of school life, both inside and outside the classroom – and, and as a result, further help our students become the best versions of themselves and flourish individually and as a community.
Positive Education at Shipley is, in so many ways, the natural next step in the development of our SEED program. Led by Director of Student Support Dr. Sharron Russell and a host of other PreK -12 colleagues, SEED has been at the heart of our efforts to support our students both as learners and as people. As you might recall, enhancing our successful SEED program was a key component of the Strategic Plan adopted by the Board of Trustees last year. Knowing that SEED is integral to achieving our goal of Educational Excellence, we committed to “[advancing] our position as a recognized leader in social, emotional, and ethical development so each of our students continues to be uniquely prepared for success in college and in life.” I must thank our Board of Trustees for unanimously endorsing Positive Education at Shipley as the path to achieving that goal and for ensuring that we will have the resources to make the initiative a reality.
To that end, every one of our colleagues will attend a three-day retreat this summer to learn about Positive Education. The retreats will focus on Shipley colleagues learning and living the skills for well-being. They have been designed based on the best international evidence for Positive Education, and tailored to our community based on feedback from Shipley colleagues who attended a pilot retreat in January of 2017. In addition, many of our colleagues will have the opportunity this summer to participate in “train-the-trainer” sessions so that we can take on some of the community training that will occur over time.
We are also incredibly fortunate to be working with Dr. Alejandro Adler, Director of International Positive Education at Penn’s Positive Psychology Center to create and implement our plans. In the background will be Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of the field of Positive Psychology, who has addressed our Board of Trustees and our colleagues in recent months.
Although Sharron Russell (whose title will become Director of Positive Education and Student Support) and her team have been actively working with Dr. Adler throughout this year, we are still just at the beginning of our journey. Sharron and her team have also been in dialogue with the Geelong Grammar School
in Australia, which has already implemented the program. Their description of Positive Education reflects what we aspire to achieve here at Shipley: “Positive Education brings together the science of Positive Psychology with best practice teaching to encourage and support individuals, schools and communities to flourish. We refer to flourishing as a combination of ‘feeling good and doing good’. Positive Education focuses on specific skills that assist students to build positive emotion and engagement, good relationships, meaning and purpose and accomplishment. Who could ask for more for our students and our entire community?”
Motivated by the prospects in front of us, I look forward to communicating with you on a regular basis about our progress, as well as sharing articles and information on the work and how important it is to the ongoing health and safety of our kids. With that in mind, here is an excellent report recently released by IPEN (International Positive Education Network), The State of Positive Education
, and I encourage all of you to take a look. If you want to follow the latest in Positive Education, I also encourage you to follow IPEN on Twitter (@PosEdNet
) and Facebook
In my 25 years at Shipley, I find myself more excited about Positive Education than I have been about any other programmatic effort we have undertaken. A major reason for my excitement is that the vision for this initiative demands that we integrate our efforts across all of our work and help our entire community continue to grow in the process. Our mission speaks to educational excellence, love of learning, and compassionate participation in the world. As the head of this school, I have been proud of our community’s deep commitments to the academic, social, and emotional success of our students and to creating a community with meaningful relationships at its core. I look forward to working in partnership with you to make our vision a reality.
Head of School