Self Confident? Well, yes…ish!

Self Confident? Well, yes…ish!

Check out this great guest blog about applying the principles of positive psychology in the classroom…

Self Confident?  Well yes . . . . ish!

By Greg Donoghue

thinkEd Australia

One of the biggest hurdles students face when learning a new task is often their fear of failing, or of looking silly in front of their peers and teachers.  This often leads to them not even trying, and so they miss out on valuable learning opportunities.  And then they feel bad about themselves, and so the vicious cycle begins.

But recently at  Sunshine Harvester Primary School, one Prep grade teacher found a moving way around this problem.  As part of the School’s Positive Education program (in partnership with National Australia Bank’s Schools First program, and the Ardoch Youth Foundation) Elise Butterworth (pictured) provided students with a book called “Ish” – a story by Peter Reynolds about Ramon who loved to draw.  He tried to draw a vase of flowers, but was told that it didn’t look anything like it, so he lost heart and threw his drawings away.  But then his sister found his crumpled drawings and put them on the wall, saying that they looked “vase-ish”.  Ramon became enthused about his drawing again, and became better and better.

When Elise told this story to her Prep students, she asked them to do some drawing – and was quite amazed at the effect it had.  Students who would normally be reluctant or refuse to draw, were wholeheartedly giving it a go.  Free from being judged about what a “good drawing” was, they just drew things like “girl-ish”,  or “flowers-ish”, or even “small-ish”.    And when it came time to show their work, Elise found that some of the best drawings were from students who would normally not do very well.  This gave those students great pride and confidence – and great excitement at having their work on display for the whole school to see.

Elise also found that teaching Positive Education in the class does not mean dropping something else in the already crowded curriculum.  “If you didn’t know better, you could have mistaken the ish lesson for a standard literacy lesson!” says Elise.  “We did all the same things – we read the story, discussed the ideas, the characters and their feelings, reflected on some questions, and learned new words.”  The only difference was, that instead of learning literacy about, say, ‘my favourite toy’, they were simultaneously learning at another level – about their emotions, motivations and how to be successful.

Elise’s favourite drawing was one little girl who drew “smiling-ish”.    “It’s a real bonus how it prompted them to start reflecting on their emotions,” said Elise.  It’s living proof of positive psychology finding that self-esteem and confidence come from learning competence  – not, as many in the past have believed – the other way around.

Further information about the program can be obtained by contacting the writer at 

And/or you can read more about Greg and ThinkEd's award winning work HERE and HERE

Finally, if you're interested in our Positive Education programs outside Victoria (where Greg and ThinkEd primarily operate) then get in touch directly with The Happiness Institute via