Finding Wellness in Faraway Places: An Educator's Journey

Finding Wellness in Faraway Places: An Educator's Journey

Paul Collins (Florida A&M University, USA)
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-2334-9.ch002
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This chapter is designed to speak to those educators in the field who can relate to functioning on a mental, emotional, and physical low frequency based on the challenges of the workplace. The author unravels how he, as an educator, struggled to find balance in his own self-care practices while simultaneously devoting himself to helping students, and a school community, flourish. The requirements of becoming better as teachers and school leaders, supporting students and their families, and being agile in maneuvering organizational change can prove to be daunting at best. These are some of the challenges that are outlined. Nevertheless, this work will unpack some actionable strategies that have been helpful by being proactive, rather than reactive, in coping with the challenges that educators face.
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Mother to Son

By Langston Hughes

  • Well, son, I’ll tell you:

  • Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

  • It’s had tacks in it,

  • And splinters,

  • And boards torn up,

  • And places with no carpet on the floor—

  • Bare.

  • But all the time

  • I’se been a-climbin’ on,

  • And reachin’ landin’s,

  • And turnin’ corners,

  • And sometimes goin’ in the dark

  • Where there ain’t been no light.

  • So boy, don’t you turn back.

  • Don’t you set down on the steps

  • ’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

  • Don’t you fall now—

  • For I’se still goin’, honey,

  • I’se still climbin’,

  • And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

The literature on the need for teacher self-care and wellness is lacking, but the conversation on this topic is more relevant than it has ever been during this inescapable historical moment accompanied by a Covid-19 pandemic. Such a historical moment illuminates the need for a well overdue conversation on teacher well-being. it is instinctively known that the notion of teacher wellness and notions of teacher self-care should be high on the educational field’s totem pole of priorities. Nevertheless, such notions continue to await the attention and scholarly legwork necessary to shine light on and breathe new life into this timely educational topic. The enhancement of schools will be the result because this conversation is about prioritizing education’s front line of defense against a myriad of negative outcomes.

Through the use of personal narrative, this work seeks to provide contemporary educators with powerful tools that, when implemented consistently, have proven to yield positively desirable results at the personal level. This manuscript will present educators with the author’s personal journey through implementing Yale University’s most popular course ever, which focuses on well-being (Santos, n.d.). The journey was fully online and allowed for an audited experience. Like so many in the field of education, the author too, found himself dealing with the implications of physical and emotional lows as he attempted to simultaneously motivate and inspire the nation’s future citizens and leaders. The many trials undergirded by the general lack of societal respect of the field of education are exemplified by relatively low pay in comparison to other professions, long hours, ever-changing mandates, and increasingly challenging work environments, as the impacts of a global Covid-19 pandemic are being navigated by all. One can easily relate to the challenge of educator attrition, as so many brilliant educators tend to totally abandon the profession within the first five years.

The context mentioned above is a reality that the author, as an educator, had to address head-on during a time of an existential emotional and physical low point in his own career in the field of education. As a personal act of resistance in the interest of his own self-care, and an intentioned will to find balance and peace, he embarked upon a journey to discover the science behind the concepts of self-care and personal well-being. The author’s exploration led him to what is now known as Yale University’s most popular course ever—The Science of Well-Being. He had reached a point in his educational career where the ultimatum was crystal clear. He was either going to figure a way to function on a higher and healthier mental, emotional, and physical plane of existence as a professional educator, or he was going to exit the profession that he loved so dearly. Like so many in the field of education, the author’s relationship with his profession was becoming toxic.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Character Strengths: The positive parts of your personality that make you feel authentic and engaged.

Savoring: Engaging in a way of thinking about a particular moment or context of joy, pleasure, and/or fulfillment with the intention of increasing that moment’s intensity and duration.

Social Connectedness: The experience of feeling connected to others. Positive social connectedness involves interacting with others and the byproduct of such yielding feelings of being valued and cared for at the interpersonal level.

Rewirements: Practices of self-care and well-being that, when done consistently and with intentionality, over time tend to make lasting changes at the emotional, mental, and physical/acting levels of functioning.

Gratitude: The mental and emotional posture of being grateful. Gratitude can also be expressed physically by the acting out of the mental and emotional posture of gratefulness.

Well-Being: The state of being healthy, happy, and comfortable in a myriad of given contexts. Well-being is germane to issues of mental, emotional, and physical states of functioning.

Self-Care: The act(s) of taking care of oneself through behaviors that support mental, emotional, and physical wellness.

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