“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1898
I remember asking a group of old scholars the question, “who was your best teacher at school?” The group of former students all mentioned the same two names. When I pressed them to explain what it was about their teaching skills that made them so accomplished, one replied “I don’t really remember what he taught me, or exactly how he taught. I just remember that we wanted to learn from him, because we felt that he knew us and liked us. He also told the best stories.”
Although subject knowledge is, quite obviously, very important, it’s the relationships teachers develop and the learning environment that they create, which really separates the best teachers from the rest. And yet it’s this aspect of teaching that has been conspicuous by its absence from university teaching courses and from teacher feedback processes. How do you teach in a way that creates an environment in which students want to learn and keep trying to learn? Last year, a number of student teachers from local universities joined us for a ‘Wellbeing Placement’ experience. We encouraged the student teachers to focus upon and begin to apply ‘Wellbeing-based’ approaches to their lesson planning. They all said that this transformed their outlook, partly because these aspects of teaching had, thus far, been largely overlooked, in their teacher training.
Since 2012, St. Peter’s College has followed a program of professional development in Wellbeing by educating staff in the PERMA+ (Professor Marty Seligman) and SEARCH (Professor Lea Waters) models of wellbeing. In recent months, we have used the key principles of these two models, to create a teaching pedagogy, which aims to define and label those aspects of classroom teaching, which create the ideal learning environment for students.
The SPSC Wellbeing Pedagogy is intended to be a teaching aid and resource which articulates and explains the key aspects of good teaching. Good teaching is about teaching the student and the content. Pressures from exam boards with regard to curriculum content, and the high expectations of schools, students and parents about final results, can understandably lead teachers to focus entirely upon delivering syllabi.
This new pedagogy resource will speak to teacher efficacy and explain exactly why good teachers are so successful in the classroom. We all know that the principle of teaching the human and the subject content is a relational endeavour. This new framework will seek to shine a light on the detail of that endeavour. By clarifying many of the necessary aspects of good teaching practice in this way, we aim to create a resource which can act as a daily reminder or prompt for staff, as an aid for lesson planning, or as a possible focus for professional growth and development in the 12 components of the Wellbeing Pedagogy model. Although we don’t claim that the 12 elements cover all aspects of effective teaching practice, they do capture the essence of an approach to lesson planning and classroom management which has care, empathy and positive relationships at its core, and so reflects our school wide wellbeing focus. We envisage that this unique model should encourage SPSC teachers to further consider how they might further enrich their teaching practice. It can only enhance the excellent work they are already doing.
Head of Wellbeing