A 76-year study on health and happiness can make us better teachers!
Being on vacation also allows me to find more time to read and to watch Ted Talks which is one of my favourite things to do as it always challenges me to think about my own life as an educator and to make more sense of the work that I do and the vision that I have. Whenever I read and watch Ted Talks, it’s inevitable that I will always have more questions than answers about what great teaching means, but this is the beauty of learning I guess.
As educators, we are constantly bombarded by messages from above that all we do in teaching should be about student learning and producing results. Although I agree with this message and believe that teachers need to focus on student learning in order to produce the best results possible, there must be other considerations that play a hand in creating a successfully rich learning environment within the schools that we teach?
I certainly don’t mean to imply that seeking new activities or apps to use in our teaching are the wrong things to focus on, not at all. I am simply challenging myself and other educators to think about the bigger picture of what teaching means. When trying to construct a meaningful learning environment, there is a lot of research out there which can help us to zero in on different strategies and approaches that have positive implications on our teaching. However, my experience with research is that much of it is outdated or simply doesn’t apply to me and my teaching which has turned me off, in the past, from digging deeper with questions that I have about education in general. I haven't been able to find applicable research.
In saying this though, I have been very fortunate over the past few years to connect with some excellent researchers who have helped me to better understand research and what it has to offer me in regards to my own practice (Dr. Dean Dudley, Dr. Ash Casey, Dr. Aaron Beagle, Dr. Amanda Stanec, Dr. Vicky Goodyear, Dr. Trent Brown, Dr. Doug Gleddie, Dr Tim Fletcher to just name a few!). They’ve been able to answer questions that I have or point me in the right direction if they cannot answer them. They’ve helped me to refine what it is exactly I am looking for which has been tremendously useful to me.
I recently came across a Goliath of a study (thanks to my wife Neila Steele) out of Harvard that has been 76 years in the making, an extraordinary project that has a simple but profound finding that I believe to be extremely transferrable over to teaching.
Robert Waldinger and his team of researchers have conclusively found that ‘good relationships keep us happier and healthier’. So simplistic in nature and seemingly obvious, but this finding carries with it huge implications for the way we set up our learning environments and work to develop the relationships within this space. And I am not only talking about teacher-student relationships but also peer relationships amongst teachers.
The findings within the study have identified the big 3 about relationships that I feel are applicable to both teachers and students in regards to their well-being.
There are other important factors such as subject area content knowledge and an understanding of how students learn best, but at the very heart of good teaching must be a concern for trying to develop and sustain long term positive relationships within our schools not only with our students but also those who we work with day in and day out. And in doing so, we assist in doing our share to make school and learning a rewarding experience in which meaningful relationships are woven into the very heartbeat and fabric of the organization.
Check out Robert Wadlinger’s Ted Talk below and share it with others interested in knowing more about this amazing happiness study. you can connect with Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robertwaldinger
Thanks for reading!