“Never stop experimenting with new things, and never ignore what your mind and body are telling you.”
After implementing Positive Psychology into her own life, educator Melissa Crane now offers positive education workshops for primary aged children and their teachers to improve learning outcomes and long term life satisfaction.
Q. Why did you become a teacher?
I loved the idea of teaching when I was younger, but for some reason, that desire didn’t carry over into high school or post-high school life.
Instead of studying education, my first degree was a Bachelor of Communications, which led me to a marketing job for two major car dealerships.
I very quickly realised that the corporate life wasn’t for me. A few hard, miserable months at the dealerships gave me the push I needed to become the teacher I once dreamt of being.
I re-enrolled in University, and on my very first day I knew it was the right decision.
I don’t know why I enrolled, specifically. It wasn’t some earth-shattering realisation that I had to go save the children of tomorrow, one correctly spelled word at a time. I just desperately needed change in my life and decided to follow my gut.
All I knew is that I had a really good feeling about the direction I was headed.
Q. How did Inspire Happy Humans come about?
After graduating I became a relief teacher. Teaching was new and exciting at that point, and I really enjoyed what I was doing. Everything about teaching felt so right to me and I knew I made the right choice.
Unfortunately, my life at home wasn’t quite as good. I hit a long, dark period where I felt helpless and lost. I’d just come out of a long-term relationship and I didn’t really know anything about myself or what I wanted out of life. I was just going through the motions, and it wasn’t working for me.
A gorgeous friend saw my struggle and pointed me in the direction of my first ever self-development book. It made me realise that I had more control over my life than I realised. It allowed me to take the power back and change what wasn’t working. I wasn’t as helpless as I initially thought.
This realisation was a game-changer for me, and gave me an unwavering drive to find out as much as I could about how to create a better life. Every spare moment I had I read, researched, journaled, brainstormed ideas, tried every gratitude intervention imaginable, and became a quote-junkie.
I wanted to tell the world what I was discovering, but I didn’t want it to sound like airy-fairy self-help babble, so I made sure everything I was learning was scientificallybacked. This was my first exposure to Positive Psychology. My life was rapidly changing, and all I could think was, ‘why didn’t I know about this earlier?’
My personal growth coincided with noticing more and more children – young children – who lacked confidence, showed signs of anxiety and depression, isolated themselves from their peers, and generally looked like they held the weight of the world on their shoulders. Here I was thinking kids were meant to be the bright, bubbly, care-free, innocent, adventurous souls of our society, yet so many of them didn’t show it.
As a relief teacher, I was in a different classroom every day, and in almost every one of those classrooms, one or more children exhibited those same traits. It broke my heart and lit a fire within me to make a change.
It took me to 24 years old to find Positive Psychology and make positive change within my life, but no way should these kids have to wait as long as I did.
I decided I would re-enrol at Uni (again!) to learn how to teach Positive Psychology (in the form of Positive Education) to as many children and families as possible.
I was on a mission to see less children struggling, and more children flourishing. And so Inspire Happy Humans was born.
Q. Why is Positive Education so important for primary school students?
If I asked any parent the question; ‘in one or two words, what’s the one thing you want for your child?’ the answer will usually be happiness. But what are we currently doing to achieve that outcome in our classes, schools, and homes?
The majority of us aren’t doing much, because we simply don’t know how to.
If we want more happiness for our children, then we need to improve their general wellbeing as early as possible.
The earlier we start, the more time they’ll have to improve their skills throughout their schooling, and the longer-lasting the effects will be.
Our top priority should be to prevent ill-being amongst our children. To reduce the horrendous statistics that show childhood depression is on the rise.
Beyondblue.com.au states that suicide is surpassing car accidents as the most common cause of death amongst our youth.
These statistics need to change, and we should be doing everything in our power to initiate that change.
The scientifically-backed interventions taught via Positive Education have also been shown to increase life satisfaction and improve learning outcomes in children.
Why wait? It’s clear that Positive Education is highly beneficial for the individual and the community, and the sooner we get started, the better off we’ll all be.
Q. How can teachers improve the mental wellbeing of students?
Improve their own wellbeing first. I am a huge advocate of being the example, and I truly believe you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Teachers – take care of yourself and work on you. Prove to yourself that Positive Education works, believe in it, reap the benefits, and show the children you teach that they can do it too.
Be the change you wish to see in your classroom, and you’ll see your classroom change.
Q. Should Positive Psychology be included in pre-service teacher training?
Absolutely! When we learn about Positive Psychology, we begin to implement the ideas and interventions into our own lives. Like I said before, the best thing a teacher can do to improve the mental wellbeing.
The first years of teaching can be an incredibly challenging time, so it would be great to see new graduates starting off on the right foot with the skills to move through inevitable challenges more gracefully.
It’s also important to mention that just like there’s an art to teaching literacy and numeracy, there’s also an art to teaching wellbeing to ensure maximum engagement.
Provide children with the foundations for effective learning, because their wellbeing is paramount.
Q. Do you have any advice for prospective and current primary school teachers?
Four things – be curious, believe, take responsibility, and persevere.
Be curious about life! Can it get better than this? What do I want? How can I progress? How can I get to where I want to be? Who do I want to be? What works well for me? How can Positive Psychology help me?
Then, believe that it’s possible. Read the studies that show the benefits of Positive Psychology. Know that if it’s worked for others, it can work for you, too. Believe that anything is possible, and believe in your abilities enough to do it.
Next, take total responsibility over your life and commit to making positive change. It’s entirely in your capable hands!
Finally, persevere, because Positive Psychology does not offer a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all solution.
Every person is so unique, and what works for one may not work as well for another. Never stop experimenting with new things, and never ignore what your mind and body are telling you. They know best.
Q. What achievement are you most proud of?
It might sound a bit cliché, but I’m proud that I believed in myself enough to make a change. I leapt from the familiar – classroom teaching – to the unfamiliar world of business, because I have to help solve a problem.
At times, it’s been terrifying and difficult, and self-doubt has been trailing me since the get-go, but I am so proud of where I am and so proud of where I’m going.
My greatest achievement from here will be seeing the positive changes in the children I have the pleasure of teaching. Nothing could beat that.