Attending the 2017 Symposium on Educator Wellbeing was an affirmation of so many things I have come to love about teaching conferences. The environment was relaxed and friendly. The attendees were passionate and supportive. The sessions were inspiring, informative, and very, very funny.
The educators gathered to share their stories were unified in their belief that student wellbeing is the necessary precursor to every element of learning, and that educator wellbeing is the necessary precursor to student wellbeing. That simple idea of putting a student’s social and emotional needs at the forefront is still a revolutionary concept in many circles, although it is taken for granted by so many others.
In his keynote on Pursuing Joy in a Complex World, Dean Shareski discussed simple strategies for leading happier lives:
- Honour Childhood
According to a statistic Shareski shared, the average 4 year old laughs 200 times a day. The average 40 year old laughs only 4 times a day. Children already possess the key to their own happiness. All we need to do is give them a platform to let their joy shine, and maybe harness some of that joy within ourselves.
- Eliminate Busyness
The societal norm of filling every moment is undermining our productivity and our happiness. Our students do not benefit from hours of homework they receive every night, nor do we benefit from having so many things on the go. In the words of Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, “make time for rest, take it seriously, protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.”
- Practice Gratitude
Like rest, gratitude is a practice that takes effort to maintain. The media would often have us believe that the world is becoming a scary place, but we can see the beauty if we know where to look. Train yourself to find and express joy, and train your students to do the same.
- Focus on Strengths
Most students will go on to build their lives around their skills and passions, yet teachers often focus on their weaknesses. Employers are guilty of this too. It’s demoralizing and distracting. By focusing on areas of strength and encouraging students to lean into them, we will have happier, more fulfilled students and teachers.
We may have heard some of these strategies before, but they bear repeating because no matter how we strive to do things like eliminate busyness and practice gratitude we always seem to fall short. With so much pressure to abandon joy in pursuit of perfection, it takes an event like this symposium to remind us to make our own wellbeing a priority. I am incredibly proud that Learnography was able to sponsor this event, and I hope that it will serve as a catalyst in the cultural shift towards self-care.
By Kate Salmon
Kate Salmon (@CSCKate) is a Communications Manager and general word nerd from Ottawa, Ontario. With a BA in Rhetoric and Professional Writing from the University of Waterloo, she continues her learning journey at Learnography with a great team of former educators who are dedicated to creating transformative learning experiences. She lives in Toronto.