Stress. We have been hearing a lot about it in education lately. It seems to stem from a wide variety of sources for educators including unfunded mandates, curricular overhaul, standards and high-stakes achievement tests, finger-pointing about failing schools, lack of a role in decision making and so much more. While some of these issues have been present in the field for a long time, others are new and there can be no doubt that stress is increasing as a result. In fact a 2013 Metlife survey of teachers indicated 51% of teachers surveyed admitted to feeling “great stress” during the school week, up from 36% in 1985. In the face of this dramatic rise, there are remarkably few resources, professional training or support opportunities to address teachers’ chronic stress.
To combat this challenge, the Canadian Positive Psychology Association is following up their highly successful inaugural conference on resilience with a second annual conference this week – Educating for Resilience. Designed for teachers, counsellors, educators and positive psychology practitioners the conference will explore how to use positive psychology to increase resilience in schools.
In a recent Psychology Today article, resilience was described as “that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever.” In our increasingly turbulent and demanding world, within education and beyond, the need for resilience has likely never been stronger. But what does it look like to cultivate resilience? As one answer to this question, I’ll be facilitating a pre-conference workshop to build an understanding of the concepts and research related to character strengths and how we can tap into what is best within ourselves. I am also looking forward to presenting “The Lens of Character Strengths to Develop Social and Emotional Competencies for Learners of All Ages” during the conference. Using character strengths to expand learning, motivation and performance in the face of challenges can teach us, and those whom we teach, how to “come back stronger than ever” and develop a plan to be at our personal best every day.