MELISSA CRANE

The Australian Education Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA DAVIES

“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.

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