So five weeks come to an end. It’s been a remarkable time in the UK, USA and Canada. Just this week I’ve had the opportunity to work with Tayyab Rashid in Toronto, and he is doing some very cool stuff with Signature Strengths in education. He works in a wide range of schools from the affluent to the less well off and looks to engage teachers, students and parents in the work. He is also looking to develop more resources that can be used in schools, and we to be able to collaborate in some way with Tayyab on these in the coming months.
Whilst in Toronto, I also had the chance to sit in a Year 10 English Class at Riverdale School (no connection with the Riverdale school I visited in NYC), where positive psychology had been embedded into the curriculum. This was part of a huge curriculum document that the University of Pennsylvania have designed, and it was being implemented by Tayyab’s wife Afrose. Both Tayyab’s and Afrose’s work is part of a significant research project to measure, in a quantifiable manner, the effect it has on the students.
I also met with Therese Joyce (an Aussie who now lives in Canada) who is the director of the EF School in Toronto. She’s done some great staff development training based on positive psychology which the actual effect on staff wellbeing has also been measured by the University of Melbourne. The results of which the EF school are still waiting on.
From temperatures of -11 (yes, minus eleven) celsius I flew to Phoenix, Arizona to meet with Dr Howard Cutler. Dr Cutler wrote the “Art of Happiness” series with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. (The Art of Happiness was on the New York Times best seller list for TWO years!). He is in the process of developing an Art of Happiness educational program, which he plans to pilot in Phoenix. As a psychiatrist, with expertise in Positive Psychology AND years of experience of working with the Dalai Lama, I was hoping for an inspiring and exciting few hours conversation… and I got it! We talked about all manner of things and we challenged each others thinking and agreed on many aspects of our educational philosophy. Again I’m honoured to be able to say that Dr Cutler wants to continue to work with me in the future on in the first instance his Art of Happiness in Education project… very exciting!
To try to sum up what the experience of this tour has been like for me in a few words would prove futile. I believe it will be in the coming months or even years that I truly understand exactly what I’ve gotten from it.
What I can say is that I’ve made partnerships, and dare I say friends that I hope to continue working with in the months and years to come. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and engage with people whose work I have admired for a very long time, and the fact that many of those same people would like to work with me in the future is incredibly exciting and affirming for me.
Thank you to all the people who gave up their time to meet with me and share their work. It was a truly inspirational time.
I’d really like to thank the Anika Foundation who sponsored this trip, and I hope to do them proud with the programs, partnerships and ideas I bring back to Australia.
Where to from here…? To be honest I have so many ideas and projects in mind, that I need to take some time to reflect and prioritise. I know that some of these ideas may well challenge some of the long-held beliefs about education and the role of a teacher, and I know there will be barriers and challenges to overcome.
What I can say is… if you want to come with me… jump on board, the more the merrier!
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The challenges will come and I am sure the time spent with Dr. Howard Cutler will help. To be an effective teacher at anything we need to “suffer what there is to suffer and enjoy what there is to enjoy” . Feel everything.
Good Furtune Steve.