Pathways to Well-Being: Helping Educators Find Balance in a Connected World

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Participate and share : Interactive lecture

Dr. Sara Armstrong  
Susan Brooks-Young  

This has been a challenging school year by any measure. Fortunately, there are simple strategies you can use — online and off — to increase your personal sense of well-being and help your students better cope. Get tips and activities to implement immediately. Binder of resources provided.

Audience: Library media specialists, Principals/head teachers, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Windows, Android, iOS
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Devices just need the ability to connect to a wifi network and access the online agenda.
Topic: Social emotional learning
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Education Leaders:
Equity and Citizenship Advocate
  • Model digital citizenship by critically evaluating online resources, engaging in civil discourse online and using digital tools to contribute to positive social change.
Empowering Leader
  • Support educators in using technology to advance learning that meets the diverse learning, cultural, and social-emotional needs of individual students.
For Educators:
  • Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

There are many stressors weighing on educators these days. The purpose of this session is to help them learn techniques they can use to increase their personal sense of well-being which, in turn impacts job satisfaction and student success. Simple activities grounded in six research-based areas of focus can lead to a sense of increased personal and professional well-being. This session offers an overview of these areas and easy-to-use activities participants may begin using today.

As a result of attending this session, participants will:
*Review six components of well-being educators can target.
*Consider ways technology use currently impacts their lives positively and negatively.
*Review on- and off-line activities that help individuals focus on the six components both personally and professionally.
*Leave with ideas they can implement immediately to increase their sense of personal well-being.

An online agenda will be provided for use during and after the conference. Participants will be able to access all materials referenced.


1. Overview
A. Content: Overview of session purpose and objectives, introduction of presenters, setting the stage.
B. Timeline: 15 minutes
C. Process: After a brief introduction of the presenters and short overview of the session objectives, participants watch a quintessential clip of work stress (Lucy Chocolate Scene). How does it mirror many educators’ work experience? Talk with a shoulder partner. Report out a few comments.

2. Six Areas & Where Technology Fits In
A. Content: Decades of research identify six areas educators can target to increase personal well-being. This section defines those areas and introduces resources for further learning.
B. Timeline: 15 minutes
C. Process: Briefly define the six target areas—Getting Focused, Gratitude, Empathy, Being Positive, Kindness, Movement—then discuss the role of technology in supporting well-being. Introduce website and LiveBinder of resources that participants may review during and after the session.

3. Six Activities
A. Content: Share one or two activities for each of the six areas. These activities are appropriate for adult use and can be modified for use with kids. Activities are both off- and online.
B. Timeline: 25 minutes
C. Process: Presenters lead participants through a series of simple activities (one or two per target area: Getting Focused, Gratitude, Empathy, Being Positive, Kindness, and Movement). Presenters also refer participants to a LiveBinder that includes information about all six areas and which will be available during and following the session.

4. Wrap-up
A. Content: Brief review of significant ideas and ways to apply this information in the workplace.
B. Timeline: 10 minutes
C. Process: Participants work in their original shoulder partner to discuss what they have learned during the workshop and how they can use this information in their personal lives and workplace, identifying an action step they will take.

Supporting research

The articles listed here each relate to findings tied to well-being in general or to one of the six target areas covered during this session.

Teacher Well-Being
* School Mental Health Is Not Just for Students: Why Teacher and School Staff Wellness Matters (2017). High levels of stress and burnout are common in the education field. This situation negatively impacts adults and the children they work with.

* To promote success in schools, focus on teacher well-being (2019). With all the focus on student well-being, the importance of teacher well-being is often overlooked. This article discusses the need to broaden our definition of what constitutes teacher well-being and then create environments where educators can flourish.
* Practicing Gratitude Can Be Good for Mental Health and Well-Being (2017). Review of findings from two studies suggesting that expressing gratitude improves individuals’ health while reducing stress and depression.

* You’ve Heard Gratitude is Good for You. Here’s what Science Says (2015). Findings from multiple studies show that, “Gratitude helps people optimize feelings of enjoyment, no matter what their circumstances are in life.”

Being Positive
* Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being (2010). This article offers an overview of multiple studies that explore how being positive affects mental and physical health.

* Hope & Optimism (2018). This four-year project at Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, and Notre Dame explores the positive impact of hope and optimism.

Getting Focused
* How Mind-Wandering May Be Good for You (2018). Mind-wandering actually may lead to increased creativity. This does not mean that being focused isn’t important, it is. It does mean that each state of mind is important, depending on the situation.

* Multitasking and Stress (2018). Multitasking is inefficient and leads to a variety of negative consequences including shoddy work, stress, and poor health.

* Are We Entering the Age of Empathy? (2012). Empathy allows us to understand why we feel the way we do about people or events. Experiencing empathy is key in being able to relate to the world around us.

* Six Habits of Highly Empathic People (2012). Empathy is a behavior that can lead to societal transformation and can be learned or enhanced through deliberate practice.

* The Power of Positive Self Talk (2016). “The practice of positive self-talk is often the process that allows you to discover the obscured optimism, hope, and joy in any given situation.”

* Five Ways to Kindle Kindness from the Inside Out (2017). Practicing kindness can strengthen neural networks and uplift emotions.

* Thirteen Mental Health Benefits of Exercise (2017). Exercise offers many benefits including decreased stress, improved self-confidence, and increased cognitive ability.

* How Simply Moving Benefits Your Mental Health (2016). Review of the positive effects of exercise beyond physical. For example, studies are showing that exercise can reduce depression, being as effective as medication or therapy. It can also increase focus and reduce fatigue.

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Dr. Sara Armstrong, Sara Armstrong Consulting
Susan Brooks-Young, SJ Brooks-Young Consulting

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