I (Clare) was reading Paul Dolan’s latest book: Happiness by Design: Change what you do not how you think. http://www.amazon.ca/Happiness-Design-Change-What-Think/dp/159463243X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438260329&sr=8-1&keywords=Paul+dolan
There are many interesting parts – understanding happiness, defining happiness … on page 77 there is an interesting chart which reports a survey conducted in the UK re: who are happy. Below are the results:
Florists and gardeners – 87%
Hairdressers and beauticians – 79%
Plumbers and water workers – 76%
Marketers and PR people – 75%
Scientists and researchers – 69%
Leisure and tourism workers – 67%
Construction workers – 66%
Doctors and dentists – 65%
Lawyers – 64%
Nurses – 62%
Architects – 62%
Child care and youth workers – 60%
Teachers – 59%
Accountants – 58%
Car workers and mechanics – 57%
Electricians – 55%
Caterers – 55%
HR and personnel staff – 54%
IT and telecom workers – 48%
Bankers – 44%
Some of these results surprised me! So are you happy? Do you think the results have changed over time? Do you teachers in previous decades were happier? And bankers at 44%. Hhhhmmm…..
The Washington Post recently reported on a survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) of approximately 30,000 teachers. Survey results reported teachers felt high levels of stress and low levels of autonomy. The rise of government initiatives such as the Common Core Standards were identified as a source of stress for teachers. The article reported: “Teachers said they feel particularly anxious about having to carry out a steady stream of new initiatives — such as implementing curricula and testing related to the Common Core State Standards — without being given adequate training, according to the survey. “
The AFT website reports some key findings from the survey:
- Only 1 in 5 educators feel respected by government officials or the media.
- Only 14% strongly agree with the statement that they trust their administrator or supervisor.
- More than 75 % say they do not have enough staff to get the work done.
- 78% percent say they are often physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.
- 87% percent say the demands of their job are at least sometimes interfering with their family life.
- Among the greatest workplace stressors were the adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development, mandated curriculum and standardized tests.
Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, noted stress could be a result of teachers wearing multiple hats in the classroom:
“We ask teachers to be a combination of Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr….We ask them to be Mom and Dad and impart tough love but also be a shoulder to lean on. And when they don’t do these things, we blame them for not being saviors of the world. What is the effect? The effect has been teachers are incredibly stressed out.”
Read more about this issue at: http://www.aft.org/news/survey-shows-need-national-focus-workplace-stress#sthash.mryeqegY.dpuf
We recently had postings from Shelley on fostering student “well-being” through “mindfulness” and Yiola on “mental health” education. Both these topics are increasingly prominent today. In Ontario character education has been stressed for several years, and currently mental health education is an MOE emphasis.
I (Clive) did my PhD in moral philosophy and researched, wrote, and taught in values or “way of life” education for a couple of decades. I even developed grades 1-12 learning materials in the area. But finding that teachers had very little time for separate values instruction, I broadened my work to teaching and teacher education in general – and haven’t regretted the shift.
However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that teaching well requires a sound set of values and approach to life, society, and the world. Educational issues are ultimately life issues, and we can’t resolve one without the other.
Fortunately, the scope for addressing life issues in subject teaching is enormous. In literacy/literature, for example, a large proportion of the discussion and project work could be on values related matters. What is needed is for teachers and teacher educators to take up this area in a systematic way in the context of promoting subject learning, which is our main occupational mandate.
This in turn requires a much deeper understanding of the nature and importance of values, and the need to have an articulated approach to life. We’ve been used to leaving values up to philosophy and religion, or to saying (especially since the 60s) that it’s just a personal thing. But the task is extensive, fundamental, and something we must all engage in – together. Each person will have their own way of life but there are important general elements, and teachers and students should work together on both.
Supporting Student Well-Being through Mindfulness Practices
Last week I (Shelley Murphy) had the opportunity to hear Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg speak about the quality of Finland’s education system. One of the many things that stood out to me as particularly memorable was Finland’s teachers’ primary focus on supporting student well-being. It got me thinking about the newly published Ontario Ministry of Education document Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/excellent.html. Its focus is on the skills, knowledge, and characteristics learners need for success and well-being and a plan of action for promoting these. I am excited to know that the ministry has recognized the fundamental importance of student well-being and has included it as one of its four core priorities here in Ontario.
One way to promote student well-being and resilience is through mindfulness awareness practices. Mindfulness practice, which has most recently been taught and practiced within the context of medicine, has been increasingly attracting attention in the field of education. When I was an elementary teacher, I used mindfulness practices to help students learn to be more self-aware, less reactive, and to meet each moment with greater attention and presence. As a teacher educator, I now introduce my preservice students to mindfulness awareness practices within my Special-Education courses. There is increasingly convincing data showing that regular mindfulness practices strengthen the areas of the brain that control attention, executive functioning, emotion regulation, and mental flexibility. A myriad of groups and organizations are surfacing to promote mindfulness in our schools for these very reasons (e.g. Discover Mindfulness in Ontario http://discovermindfulness.ca/ ; Mindful Schools in California http://www.mindfulschools.org/ ). Considering the importance of supporting the mental health, resilience, and overall well-being of both school aged students and our preservice teachers, I think mindfulness awareness practices and their applications within educational settings are worth taking a closer look at!
We have had many blog posts about teaching for relevance. I (Clare) was reading a chapter in Martin Seligman’s book Flourish: A Visionary new Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. http://www.amazon.ca/Flourish-Visionary-Understanding-Happiness-Well-being-ebook/dp/B0043RSK9O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392996735&sr=8-1&keywords=martin+seligman
Here is an excerpt from Chapter Five.
- Question one: in one or two words, what do you most want for your children?
- If you are like the thousands of parents I’ve polled, you responded “happiness,” “confidence,” “contentment,” “fulfillment,” “balance,” “good stuff,” “kindness,” health,” satisfaction,” “love,” “being civilized,” “meaning,” and the like. In short, well-being is your topmost priority.
- Question two: in one or two words, what do schools teach?
- If you are like other parents, you responded, “achievement,” “thinking skills,” “success,” “conformity,” “literacy,” “math,” “work,” ‘test taking,” “discipline,” and the like. In short, what schools teach is how to succeed in the workplace.
- Notice that there is almost overlap between the two lists. The schooling of children has, for more than a century, paved the boulevard toward adult work. I am all for success, literacy, perseverance, and discipline, but I want you to image that schools could, without compromising either, teach both the skills of well-being and the skills of achievement. I want you to image positive education.
I found his perspective refreshing and inspiring. In my teaching, I need to be mindful to address both well-being and skills and to talk to my student teachers about the need to do both.