Speaker Interview with George Kokolas on Positive Education
The Positive Psychology Centre hosted its first Positive Education webinar on Thursday 12th May, and an enjoyable, discussion-filled evening was had by all. The next event in the series takes place on Thursday 9th June, where Reece Coker, Diane Dreher, and George Kokolas will be discussing the dynamics that contribute to a positive learning environment. The guest entry below is a short interview with George Kokolas, a qualified teacher, and Student Member of the Positive Psychology Guild.
For more information on the Positive Education webinar series and how to book please see here.
1) Would you give us a brief introduction to yourself and what brought you to Positive Psychology?
The question is standard and simple, but it’s tricky for me to answer it briefly. I’ve been teaching English as a foreign language for over 30 years. I am a teacher trainer and an international speaker for over 22 years. I have been to 90 different countries meeting teachers and students, and I have delivered over 1000 presentations and demo lessons. I am stating this data because it was after all this classroom time and interactions that I realised what brought me to Positive Psychology, and that was…a lot of suffering, struggling, and sometimes despair among students and teachers. It was at that moment that I thought that I need to do something about it. Be more proactive and take action so as to facilitate the process of learning both for teachers and students. So currently, I am wearing two hats, the one of the “educator” and the one of the “facilitator” who tries to ensure a more positive learning experience in any classroom. I am also a certified Neurolanguage Coach, and that’s a “secondary hat” that I also “wear” a lot during my lessons.
2) Why is there a need for Positive Psychology in a learning environment?
I think because we have forgotten how joyful, easy and natural the process of learning is, and we have inexplicably been indoctrinated with the wrong values regarding education and learning. And when I say “we”, I mean everyone involved in this lifelong process: students, teachers, parents or any individual who decides to learn something new. I am not questioning the existence of infrastructure of “organised education”, but I am very sceptical about how this education is delivered. I think we should be training all the people involved to see all this more like an endless joyful journey and less like a final destination that you MUST reach in order to be happy and prosperous. I think the objectives of education have been, in a way, flipped . .. My generation (I am turning 50 soon…) was taught to be educated so as to become successful, find a good job and thus become happy. I think my generation is now realising that it should be the other way round…First, you need to be happy, and it’s this happiness that will make you successful and help you achieve any goals you may have. I think that’s where PP comes in, and it can contribute a lot toward this objective of being happy and fortified for the long trip of learning.
3) The webinar series concentrates on Positive Psychology in a child-focused learning environment? Some of our members are particularly interested in facilitating Positive Psychology in an adult learning environment, is this something you have any thoughts on how progress can be made in that area?
I think making this distinction is necessary, but I believe that both these age groups have a common ground when it comes down to teaching and creating a positive learning environment. No matter if you teach adults or kids, the teacher needs to have one motto in his/her mind: “Positivity is not taught! It’s caught!”. And this common ground refers to the archetype of our natural need for human connection and communication that recently has been triumphantly confirmed both by psychology and neuroscience. In other words, you can’t expect simply to preach or lecture about positive learning and expect that your class will simply listen, understand and act along. If you want to teach about it and transmit it, you need to integrate positivity into your own living and be able to live by its norms. Imagine, for example, a teacher talking about “kindness and empathy” and never be asking for the students’ opinions or never smiling…Who in the classroom would believe or pay attention to him or her. I think that’s the first step a teacher or an educator needs to conquer. And both adults and kids can perfectly understand and catch these vibes only when they are real and personal. They simply reach realisation via different paths. Kids are more intuitive and may reject you because of their gut feeling, but it may be more difficult with adults, as you need to connect with them at a more conscious level. When teaching adults, I have found tremendous help borrowing coaching techniques and implementing them into typical classroom environments, for example, goal setting, signposting and self-defining motivation.
George Kokolas (Greece)
George has been working as the Academic Director and Teacher Trainer for Express Publishing for the last 21 years. He is a certified LEVEL 5 TEFL teacher and a certified ADVANCED Neurolanguage CoachⓇ, practicing Neurolanguage CoachingⓇ professionally. He holds a Level 5 Positive Psychology Fundamentals Diploma and he is trying to merge ELT into it. He also holds a BA in English Literature. Right after his graduation he branched out from his major in English Literature and devoted himself fully to ELT. He likes to be considered a frontline teacher spending many hours inside the classroom teaching and learning at the same time. He has delivered over 1000 successful seminars/workshops/training sessions in 89 countries throughout the world. Since 2017 he is the co-host and producer of the educational podcast Teachers’ Coffee. Since 2020 he is the Senior Editor for the Neurolanguage Collective Magazine.