Lessons Learned

Instructional Technology - International Education - Wellness

Instructional Coach for Wellness – Standards and Job Description

I am revisiting my blog post Instructional Coach for Wellness with this offering.

I was updating the standards section of my portfolio the other day when I remembered something interesting about the ISTE coaching standards. The standards are for K-12 instructional technology coaches. They have been updated over the years to the point that they really are quite flexible, applicable and true to the role, in my opinion. I am no longer a tech coach but my takeaway is that the ISTE standards really do fit nicely in my role as a wellness coach in K-12 schools.

A Captain Obvious moment yes, as the standards are all about coaching but as I don’t know of any organization coming up with school wellness coaching standards, it seems like a good starting place for wellness coaches working with admin to design their job descriptions. I did a search for wellness coaching standards to find companies that provide courses to gain certification but their focus seemed to mainly be on life coaching/counseling for clients. I did not find any organization with information for wellness coaching in schools.

I can say from speaking with an international school recruiter that schools are in fact hiring wellness coaches.

As I unpack what being an instructional coach for wellness might entail, I see a big portion of it being connected to my vision of the school wellness program being integrated into the regular curriculum and school culture. I’ve written about this a great deal here in this blog and through my Wellness@ES site. I see the main focus for wellness coaches to be similar to that of tech coaches with the job being to coach the teachers to bring the wellness principles into their regular classroom instruction. This can involve co-teaching at times but the main instruction is from the classroom or advisory teacher. The role also involves designing professional learning opportunities for the teachers.

A portion of this coaching involves lesson design finding opportunities to highlight learning opportunities pulling from the wellness program. For me, this would of course involve the character strengths and the PERMAH pillars of Positive Psychology. I previously shared the integration similarity between TPACK and my WPACK (Wellness-Pedagogy-Content Knowledge) approach that I bring to the collaboration table.

My bias and vision might not fit with what schools are really doing as I suspect many  are buying a SEL – wellness curriculum that the wellness coaches then teach in each division. This in my mind looks like the old style elementary guidance counselor rolling into classrooms periodically to teach the prescribed lessons from the purchased curriculum. In the middle and high schools, the wellness curriculum might be delivered through advisory by the advisory teachers or possibly it is taught by the health/PE teachers during their classes. I just don’t know what the standard approach is especially in international schools.

My bottom line is that I am curious to learn how school leaders are finding ways to enhance the wellness of their students and hopefully also their staff members. With international schools, I see this effort being extended out to the greater community including parents. If international schools are hiring wellness coaches, what do their job descriptions look like and what standards are in place to guide them in fulfilling their job description? And of course, how are they measuring how successful their efforts are?

As I didn’t follow up in my original post to list the ISTE coaching standards and how they can fit for a wellness coach, I am going to do so here.

4.1 Change Agent – The ISTE focus is on improving instruction definitely means bringing about change in teaching and in the culture of the classroom. I see the wellness coach also being a change agent but to a lesser degree if one’s school follows the old model of the guidance counselor being “in charge” of wellness/SEL by providing the instruction and possibly not collaborating with elementary teachers and MS/HS advisory teachers. The WPACK model I mentioned previously has the wellness coach co-designing aspects of unit plans to integrate the character strengths and PERMAH via PRIME Integration Strategies into the units of study and culture of the classrooms. This approach definitely leads to change with classroom teachers being leaders in the wellness implementation efforts.

4.2 Connected Learner – ISTE tech coaches network through PLCs and PLNs to stay on top of innovations in pedagogy and technology. I definitely see wellness coaches doing the same though the world of wellness coaching is relatively new compared to efforts to bring technology innovations into our schools. I wonder what networks of K-12 schools sharing information on Positive Psychology are out there. I am reaching out to Character Lab now to see if someone will speak to me about their network of schools, if they have one.

4.3 Collaborator – This is the biggie! Just as with tech coaches, I see wellness coaches sitting at the collaboration table to find ways to naturally embed wellness learning opportunities into the regular LA, social studies, math, etc. curriculum. The possibilities are many for integration as in how about some strength spotting of characters in book studies? What was the “shadow side” of some strengths presented by some historical figures? When talking about scientific relationships and connections, how about connecting to the R in PERMAH to hook the interest of your students? 🙂

4.4 Learning Designer – Take what I just wrote for collaboration and add in the ISTE call for student agency, personalized and active learning to have your wellness coaches helping to co-design lessons that are student-centered and constructivist. The biggest draw for students to learn about wellness is that the main topic is themselves! What a connection and interest builder. 😉 Wellness from a PosPsych perspective is about learning and engaging and yes, practicing character strengths within the life domains of PERMAH. So once your program moves past the first stage of teaching the character strengths and domains,  you get to move into full on experiential learning as students get to consistently practice and apply their learning in their lives. I am currently working with a non-profit in Vietnam that provides educational services to students living in orphanages. We are collaborating to design and teach curriculum that hits on this ISTE standard with students immersed in discovery learning activities. Do note that the curriculum website is very messy with some translation and few graphics. It really is a workspace and “sandbox” for my Vietnamese partners to work with.

4.5 Professional Learning Facilitator – This standard to me is a differentiator between what conventional school counselors do compared to what a big part of an instructional coaches for wellness do. This is not to say that guidance counselors do not provide professional learning opportunities. But I do wonder how many counseling graduate school programs offer full courses in instructional design and adult learning to teach counselors how to collaborate with classroom teachers to integrate the ASCA standards into the regular curriculum. This is where counseling and instructional technology intersect so well for the role of the wellness coach. I have mentioned in previous posts about the Geelong Grammar School approach to wellness program development in which the school goes through the steps of learning, living, teaching and embedding the principles of PosPsych into the culture of the school. The first three stages all involve adult learning first to learn and practice the principles to then design ways to bring them into one’s teaching. This means lots of planning for personal and professional learning. My approach again as mentioned in previous posts would be to personalize and differentiate the adult learning as much as possible. This involves the creation of a wellness resource website for adults to choose when, where and what they want to learn.

4.6 Data-Driven Decision-Maker >  Yes, of course, use data to drive your initial wellness program design efforts to provide guidance for adaption of your plan throughout the implementation process. Where the technology coach is helping with academic achievement in which we have many assessment tools, we do not have many large group ways to measure the well-being of the students and adults in our communities. There are some instruments out there but this is an area where I have limited experience. And I can say that in listening to a couple leaders from Geelong Grammar School and the Institute of Positive Education a couple years ago, they didn’t have much information on assessment and general measurement either. Their Positive Education Enhanced Curriculum (PEEC) for early and primary students did not have any assessments, if my memory is correct from reading through it a year and a half ago. But perhaps they have a measurement component now. My point isn’t to point fingers but to say that they are real leaders in wellness education and they were very upfront about how difficult it is to measure well-being in children. I do get excited at the possibility of working with MS/HS students and adults to design a personal wellness inventory based on the idea of everyone having a wellness plan. This inventory could look similar to the plan with the PERMAH construct and how one rates their use of specific character strength application wit in each pillar. Working to do the same with elementary students could be challenging but the more effective we are in teaching the character strengths and the pillars, the more the students will use wellness vocabulary in their language to the point of being able to self-evaluate their well-being to some degree . The struggle with all age groups is trying to construct a pre-assessment of one’s well-being when the students don’t have a language yet to describe their well-being. I see that the folks at Character Lab offer a Student Thriving Index and Dr. Duckworth does have a grit scale.

4.7 Digital Citizen Advocate – I show my age and time in the tech field when I say that we really need to stop saying “digital” citizenship. It is just “citizenship” as our students live in the analog and digital world with fluency of movement so that they are one world. Moving on… the wellness coach’s prime directive is to help students with their personal development to build out their wellness toolkits to be able to thrive in their lives. So yes, this also means to help them become good citizens. My take on digital citizenship efforts is that much of the focus is helping students see how their actions affect others. Many character strengths and several of the PERMAH pillars come into play to help students make healthy decisions when interacting with others. I also see the need for an internal focus to help students and yes, adults, learn about how they can engage their strengths within the PERMAH pillars to positively affect their digital wellness.

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Wellness Program Development and Implementation

After writing and podcasting about wellness, sharing lots of crazy ideas over the past several years, I think it is time to take a stab at organizing some of my strategies into one post to possibly help schools when planning to design and implement a wellness program. I do this with little experience of wellness program design while knowing that multiple books, dissertations and articles have been written about how to put new programs in place. And yes, there are consultants in the business and education worlds who specialize in program development and implementation with some providing guidance specifically for wellness. What I am offering is not a set plan. It is a menu of ideas to choose from that can go into a plan to be implemented as a wellness program. 🙂

Looking at starting a Positive Psychology/Education-oriented wellness program takes me to the work of the educators at Geelong Grammar School (GGS) and their Institute of Positive Education.  I did a search and found the following resources about their wellness program development efforts. Look to definitely read what these PosEdu pros have to say! They use the term Positive Education as the application of Positive Psychology into the field of education.

I also looked to the work of Dr. David Perkins and Dr. Jim Reese with their article entitled “When Change Has Legs” as well as my interview of Dr. Reese on the EdTech Co-Op podcast to help guide my thinking on implementation strategies.

Here is my hodgepodge listing of ideas. My approach always is to find what is practical and actionable to bring timely results for students and adults. I will follow up with more detail for these ideas in future posts.

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-Decide on whether you will include the parents and/or staff in growing their wellness.

Form a wellness committee with representatives of all stakeholders to design your school to possible community wide wellness plan. Form a smaller “well team” within the committee of interested staff to be the drivers of the process. I have not been on a school and community wide committee for some years that included students but I have heard of schools bringing them on to some committees. With no such experience, I am guessing that selected high school students could be full on members of a wellness committee. Perhaps one could put forth the case for mature and confident Middle Schoolers so I wonder if there is a way to have a side student advisory committee that also includes older elementary students where input is received on ideas from the larger wellness committee. Again, I don’t have any experience with student representatives but I do think students need to be a part of the process especially for getting their ideas on how a wellness program would be received and how to tailor it to the lives of the students. Along the same lines, I would think about forming a parent advisory group to share ideas with and to gather input from during the duration of the wellness committee’s work.

-Get your leadership organized as in who will be the political and who will be the practical leaders of the implementation process. Dr. Perkins and Dr. Reese list the responsibilities of each so do look to read their article. As a practitioner, my focus is always on finding current leaders and others with the potential to apply their Character Strengths of leadership and teamwork to further craft implementation strategies while building in accountability for the change process.

Define what wellness means for your community connecting to the principles of Positive Psychology (my shorthand is “PosPsych”). I think that sometimes committees have a tendency to think too big and broad in the scope of what they want to cover. This is understandable. I know of a wellness consortium that brings financial, environmental and spiritual into the usual Physical – Intellectual – Emotional – Social (PIES) approach to how we categorize parts of the whole student. I would advise against doing this for many reasons with one big one being that PosPsych is research supported to describe the domains of life that if lived well will lead to wellness when engaging one’s Character Strengths. I think that schools can have a separate umbrella of life skills with some overlap that can cover financial, environmental and other basic life literacies that school leaders wish to grow within their students.

-Bring in the components of social and emotional learning as provided by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). They really overlap with the Character Lab versions of the Character Strengths of emotional intelligence, social intelligence and self-control.

-Speaking of Character Lab, beside defining the term wellness, think about whether you are going to use the Character Lab names for the Character Strengths (they currently list 15 of 24 strengths) or the VIA Institute on Character version. And will you use the term Positive Psychology or Positive Education in describing your program? I find the Character Lab names more student-friendly. I also like to use Positive Psychology as it is the term used in research while also using the acronym PERMA which many add the H to. I find that using PERMAH is sticky with folks while the Positive Education version with “positive” before each pillar title offers no acronym.  And yes, I know that capitalizing Character Strengths is incorrect but I like the emphasis that the capitals provide. 🙂 The bottom line is to build a common language of learning for your wellness program.

-There are lots of techniques to running meetings effectively including protocols provided through mechanisms like Critical Friends Groups. A starting place is to do a plus minus brainstorm listing of what the school has in place that already supports wellness and what are the negatives as in barriers that will need to be overcome. It is so important to start the change process with solid foundational strategies that stakeholders are already using. A connected strategy is to possibly do a wellness survey of community members to start gathering some data to have a baseline to refer back to once the program is in place. One aspect of the survey can be on PosPsych content knowledge regarding what the term wellness means to community members. A second survey question can, of course, anonymously gather information about the status of their well-being.

-Nail down in a paragraph or two what is at the core of your wellness program. This core statement much like the school’s mission statement needs to be a promoted and shared frequently. Here is a rough example of what my core wellness statement looks like>

I see the science of Positive Psychology guiding my work looking past deficiencies to see and focus upon the strengths of those who I work with. I help others to answer the questions of:  

  • What does wellness look like from a Positive Psychology perspective?
  • What is character?
  • What are Character Strengths?
  • What are the pillars of life (i.e., PERMAH) that we can engage our Character Strengths in to help us to thrive? In a figurative sense, which “tools”(i.e., PERMAH and the Character Strengths) in our “wellness toolkit” do we routinely use to live life well on a daily basis. Which tools do we apply when we face obstacles and long term struggles?  

-I would add the topic of digital wellness under the big tent coverage of your wellness program.

-I can also see putting together a list of all the components/structures of the school where the principles of PosPsych could be embedded. From the business office to transportation to campus green space management to hiring to after-school programming, I could see a wellness filter being added to decision-making around the question of “how can wellness be supported?” when leadership makes decisions in the running of the school.

-Do a parallel implementation process by also following the School Retool model of jumping right in to introduce wellness education to your chosen stakeholders provided by your early adopters and others with enough content knowledge to get some pilots going that will provide feedback to support the wellness committee in designing the wellness plan. This goes against the Geelong Grammar School (GGS) model that is presented as being both linear in progression while in time being a cycle. More on this topic later in the post.

-If the school currently has profiles of a graduate for ES, MS and HS, if they don’t already have a section on well-being, add it with attributes of what a well student looks like at each level including how one can observe students using their personal wellness toolkit to flourish and when needed, to overcome obstacles.

-Start providing scaffolding for learning and living wellness principles by having community members set wellness goals for personal wellness, team and family wellness (the breadth depends on which populations are a part of your program). Wellness plan templates can be used to design the action steps for everyone to work towards their goals. 

-Decide what your curriculum will be and how it will be delivered. Will you purchase a curriculum? Will you develop your own? Will your approach be an integrated one into the regular curriculum (i.e., LA, SS, Sci, etc.) or will it be delivered during a set time in the weekly timetable? Who will deliver the curriculum? Might you have a hybrid approach combining both the integrated and purchased standalone curriculum?

-Connecting to the previous strategies, look to have a wellness web portal, wellness app, use of portfolios with a wellness component and other tools to teach and embed wellness into the lives of your chosen stakeholders.  New students and parents need to be onboarded into the wellness program. Providing online tutorials, FAQ and other resources through the wellness web portal can help with the process. One aspect of using communication tools to get the wellness word out there is to ponder who and how will you communicate the latest news and updates to support ongoing learning about wellness. What “just in time” conduits will you have in case of a school crisis and/or ongoing community protocols such as with Covid information sharing? Schools already leverage social networking tools from Twitter to blogs so how might you brand/title your wellness information and news?

-If you go the route of staff learning experiencing PosPsych in their lives, have divisional and departmental (i.e., principals, HR, business, etc) administrators work with individuals on their annual professional growth plan to include the setting of wellness goals. The teaching staff would also set goals for teaching the wellness curriculum.  A series of calendar events would be scheduled to support progress towards reaching the goals during the year. The wellness coach at each division level can offer coaching to support staff with their personal wellness goal(s).

-The divisional wellness coach partners with the teaching teams to set their wellness teaching goal(s), to design the activities to work on the team wellness goal including the setting of calendar events to meet and reflect on their efforts during the year.

-Redesign your curriculum planning unit template to include a way to document either the integration of and/or the teaching of the purchased wellness curriculum into the units of study. A starting place is to have a section of the unit plan entitled something like “Wellness Teaching/Integration”.

Ongoing professional development to help individuals and teams meet their wellness goals. The wellness coach and administrator who oversees the division wellness program meet with individuals and teams to help them design aspects of the school’s Professional Learning Community (PLC) and the wider Professional Learning Network (PLN) to help individuals personalize their learning.

-Give your early adopters and passionate about wellness staff members resources and time to engage their Character Strengths of creativity and teamwork to come up with ways to support and teach wellness within your community. One starting place is to set aside time for Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) workshops for learning and ideation. Go-getters can also design online mini-courses for staff to take on their own time schedules. This could tie into the badging strategy listed below.

-Further support staff learning by forming learning groups styled on the COETAIL efforts that form PLCs around technology integration that in this case would be for wellness integration. One possibility is to run several groups focusing on the school-wide or divisional goals of the year so that wellness might just be one topic choice among several.

-Design wellness learning opportunities for your parents. Get the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) involved and if you have a community center on campus support your PTA in offering book clubs, workshops, etc. on wellness, parenting and other topics of interest. The PTA can really help with the onboarding process for new parents not only for wellness but also other aspects of the school and community culture.

-The creation of a badging (micro-credential) certificate system containing all the PosPsych content knowledge and integration strategies that staff can work on whether towards their personal and/or professional goals. Teaching staff members can add their badges to the wellness section of their professional portfolios and possibly use them for credit hours in renewing their teaching licenses. 

-Will you follow the Geelong Grammar School (GGS) Positive Psychology/Education implementation model of “learn, live, teach and embed” or draw from another framework? A lesson learned is that it can take a lot of time and effort to have your staff and potentially parents go through the learn and live it phases before moving on to the teaching phase. It makes sense that teachers really need to understand the principles of PosPsych before teaching them just as they do with the content of their regular curriculum. My lesson learned is to power up on preparation and follow through to take the adults through the first two phases. Don’t get bogged down in these two phases knowing that adult education is difficult and changing behaviors is even tougher. Your students deserve to learn and live wellness ASAP! Get into teaching mode!

The GGS program is described both in linear fashion and as “four interconnecting cyclical processes” (Learn it. Live it. Teach it. Embed it.) which is supported by the graphic representation of their GGS model. The authors of the article are clear that each school must design a program that meets their needs so it seems that one can start off going through the phases in linear fashion that then become a cycle that leads to ongoing reviewing and refinement of the phases as a form of continual renewal. Well, I think that is how it works. 😉 And as Dr. Perkins and Dr. Reese note, look to design your framework to be flexible and adaptable to the needs of your community as a whole and to individual stakeholders as much as is possible.

I am reminded that Geelong Grammar had Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology, present on campus for six months so they really were able to get rolling with the Learn and Live stages. They really had the attention of their staff and they made their wellness implementation their number one priority. It should also be noted that their staff “complete a fourday residential training course to discover and explore elements of personal wellbeing, to learn the foundations of positive psychology, and to develop an understanding of and gain personal experience in the six domains of the GGS Model. Training courses are also offered to parents of students, to be introduced to Pos Ed that is intended to directly enhance their own wellbeing, and indirectly enhance the wellbeing of their children, family and friends.” (Learn it. Live it. Teach it. Embed it.)

So yes, it is a big step to have the aspiration that teachers live the tenets of PosPysch before they can teach it. And yes, there is the question of whether the school can reach into the private lives of staff regarding their wellness. My experience tells me that schools can get waylaid in the first two phases before the teaching begins. And again, GGS put huge resources towards supporting the adults in their community with the Learn and Live it stages.

So boy howdy, the folks at GGS really were and are committed to their wellness program! This brings up the point of not trying to manage multiple initiatives at the same time. Implementing a wellness program which so gets at changing behaviors and lives is a huge undertaking. So really refrain bringing about “initiative fatigue” by trying to do other new programs while implementing your wellness plan.

The authors of the article do go on to acknowledge that schools might not be able to offer such a dedicated learning opportunity for their community members. The authors go on to twice note that “staff are encouraged…” to live by the principles of PosPsych. So in my thinking, they, of course, could say to staff that they were encouraged but not expected to apply what they were learning into their personal and private lives. I think it is a big undertaking for school leaders to expect, let alone require staff to make changes in their lives guided by PosPsych.

I, of course, would love to be a member of a school where all the staff make such a commitment to personal wellness but I cannot see it being made a professional obligation. What I can see are strategies and systems being constructed that offer a pathway to engage with PosPsych in one’s life both professionally and personally.  Once teachers learn the wellness content knowledge and have the tools to integrate wellness into their classrooms, don’t let the Live It phase prevent the students from experiencing the principles of PosPsych in their lives. And also don’t let the time consuming work of designing a wellness strategic plan get in the way of being actionable as advocated by the School Retool approach to program implementation.

We, of course, know that modeling is a powerful instructional tool so it makes sense for teachers to not only know the content of PosPsych but to also share well-being practices with their students. Character Lab makes modeling a central strategy in all of their playbooks. But in the end, we can model by asking questions around how to apply Character Strengths and how to engage them within the PERMAH framework to teach PosPsych to our students. We don’t need to share from of our personal lives unless we choose to. So again, don’t get bogged down in how well or how many of one’s staff truly live what they are teaching when it comes to wellness.

-I will finish this list of strategies by offering a final point that Dr. Perkins and Dr. Reese list as the fourth leg of their process to support innovation and change. They use the term institutionalization which compliments the GGS phase of embedding the wellness program into all aspects of the school community. My interpretation is that school leaders need to construct systems that keep the program growing with mechanisms for accountability that don’t depend on specific leaders and passionate individuals who especially in international schools often move on to new schools. I can say from experience that I have seen a few programs quickly disappear when the individual(s) who started and ran them, left the school and/or systems were not in place to keep the program going.

Thus, the onboarding program to the school community for new staff and parents must offer learning opportunities about the wellness program. I can say again from experience that the onboarding needs to be scheduled and promoted at the start of the year to continue on a monthly or so basis offering new staff and parents opportunities to grow their knowledge of PosPsych with built in activities to support their living and embedding of wellness principles into their lives.

The same, of course, needs to happen for students. Schools often offer a start of the year orientation program for new students. Think about including a wellness component that also connections to your wellness web portal for ongoing learning opportunities. And just as with the parents, look to have some follow up orientation get togethers with your new students to discuss wellness and other topics to help them transition to your school.  Find ways for your ES homerooms, MS and HS advisory to have start of the year wellness foundational learning opportunities to get the new students ready for the upcoming wellness curriculum.

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If you have been reading my blog you know that these ideas were shared previously sometimes in more detail. I wish I could say the strategies come from my experiences in schools that successfully implemented school-wide wellness programs but they do not. I am hoping to learn about schools that designed and implemented wellness programs where students, staff and parents speak and act upon the language of wellness.

By this, I mean that if I ask a third, eighth or twelfth grader to paint the picture of what wellness looks like in their lives, they would be able to speak in terms of the Character Strengths that they exercise on a daily basis to live well along with the ones they engage to handle potential tough spots in their day. If asked which PERMAH pillars are really helping them thrive, they should be able to name them while also stating which strengths are helping in that effort.

I would apply the same questions to staff and parents who are open to share about their experiences with the tenets of Positive Psychology and the application of it in their lives. And finally, I would be able to ask any teacher to either share specific wellness lessons and/or integration strategies that bring PERMAH and the Character Strengths into the culture of his/her class.

So if made it to this point in the post, please use the comment tool to share of schools that are doing wellness well. 🙂

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A Community Wellness Program – Now More Than Ever

Time for another Captain Obvious moment. Boy howdy, do schools more than ever need to have school and community wellness programs! 🙂 CASEL and other SEL organizations are filling my inbox with messages not only pointing to the crisis need for SEL support in schools but how education and government leaders are now understanding just how important student well-being is for student personal development and academic success.

I have written a lot about the need for school wellness programs to include staff and the greater community (families). As my world is international schools, I am sure that schools around the world are all in on student and staff wellness but I wonder how many have outreach programs for family wellness support.

My going forward thought is that if schools do not have a community component to their wellness programs they need to put a plan together to bring parents and interested staff members together to design one. Some of my previous posts have a few ideas and structures that could go into one’s community wellness program.

And from a practical and competitive viewpoint, I think prospective families looking at schools might just start expecting school websites and promotional materials to list ways that the schools support community wellness through a variety of ways (e.g, a parent portal filled with wellness resources, community wellness blog, family wellness plans, on campus parent center, family needs assessment survey, etc.)

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Shifting from PD to Personalized Learning

This past week I listened to Dan Taylor and John Mikton’s  The International Schools Podcast in which John interviewed my old podcasting partner Jeff Utecht and his current podcasting partner Tricia Friedman. Definitely take a listen to the episode as they cover a variety of interesting topics including professional development (PD). Jeff and Tricia both are consultants and PD providers so they shared many helpful insights on this topic.

What caught my attention was when Jeff noted that we need to move away from the term “professional” development and move towards the term “personal learning”. His statement reminded me of an episode entitled “Personalizing PD” back in 2015 our Ed Tech Co-Op podcast when Jeff and I discussed multiple pathways in how to support the professional learning of educators. Our big take away was yes, build in a system for individualized and personalized learning not just around professional learning but also around personal non-job focused learning. It really was a good and helpful episode, if you ask me, so take a listen as what we said in 2015 is even more relevant today when the conventional practice of bringing in consultants for face to face learning is limited by the pandemic.

I wrote Jeff after listening to the podcast saying that I have no idea where the field of professional development is today but I had a couple brain-pops that might help as educators think about their learning. First, we know the term “personalized learning” has been a buzzword for some years now regarding student learning. I have covered this topic in my blog on a few occasions. I also developed a section on the Web Resources for Learning website dedicated to helping students design what I call their personal learning system. In that resource page I do mention that educators also develop their own personal learning systems. I think educators would see the connection when one mentions the term professional learning network or PLN.

Network means being connected to resources and others while system means how to make the connections and on what topics. So as students might have subject area, information gathering, curation, etc. categories of their Personal Learning System, educators also do the same with their PLNs. An elementary teacher’s “system” might cover the topics of subject areas, instructional methods, assessment techniques, etc. along with the tools to reach out to resources and thought leaders while also sending the teacher’s ideas out to others in the network. Many of the tools are social networking ones but also can include web resource sites, podcasts, blogs and other information sources that can be curated.

Helping teachers see their learning as networked and as a part of a system might help them visualize that whether they have a PLN or not, that they might want to shift from thinking that their school is the main provider of their professional learning. And as Jeff and I spoke about on the podcast, we really need to move away from siloing our learning into professional versus personal. I think a lot of folks have their social networking and information resource providers mixing in professional and personal learning. I find that I get a lot of ideas around education by reading and listening to thought leaders who are not educators.

Another idea is to think about how you learn. We talk a lot about how students learn including which modalities might help support differentiation. We also are talking a lot about student agency which includes helping students better understand how they learn. So as is often the case, we can apply what we are doing with students to ourselves. 🙂 Look to enhance your agency by thinking about the variety of ways you learn as you look to develop or recalibrate your PLN. I am reminded of a blog post that I wrote a ways back entitled “How Do Adults Learn?“. It might provide some insights as it was based at the top on current research at that time.

So if you have a PLN, you might have reached out to your instructional coaches, librarian and possibly some other teachers especially those who are fluent with social networking tools to help you build your network. If you don’t have a PLN and do want to further personalize your learning, you might want to reach out to these folks for content and possibly connection tools to get you started.

Speaking of Jeff, Tricia, John and Dan, you really should look to follow them on Twitter and/or other networking tools where they are present to add them to your PLN.

Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

 

Wellness App- Another Example

I have mentioned the idea of schools working with MS/HS students to design and create a wellness app for their community. I guess schools could also hire a company to do the work but what a missed opportunity for real world project-based learning for one’s coding students.

To paint the picture a bit more, here is a mock-up of what the user interface of a  wellness app might look like with this app prototype focusing on the H of PERMAH.

Photo by William Hook on Unsplash

Instructional Coach for Wellness

A couple of years ago I asked a friend at one of the international educator recruitment agencies if schools were recruiting for wellness coaches. He replied that yes they were and it is can be a role separate from being a counselor or possibly a PE/Health teacher.

It has been on my mind as to what a job description for wellness coach might look like so I did a web search for “elementary wellness coach”. Here are the first results that came up with a brief descriptor of what the positions seem to be about.

  • School Wellness Program – It seems to be a nutrition-oriented program.
  • What Is A Wellness Coach – Working with groups, mindfulness, mental health support.
  • Wellcoaches | School of Coaching – They provide a coaching manual that can help one become a National Board Certified Coach. Digging a little, I found this board certified position to be for healthcare professionals working with patients and clients.

I went through several more results and found nothing connected to K-12 education and the role of a wellness coach.  I did one more search for “high school wellness coach”. The first result was on how to get a college degree in wellness coaching. The degree seemed to be oriented to only working in the private sector.

I then did some more thinking about my being hired a few years ago to help design and implement a wellness program at an international school. I was told that my background as an instructional coach for technology and as a school counselor along with my experience in curriculum writing was why I was hired for the position.

Upon arriving at the school, my natural inclination was to connect with the three instructional coaches in my building. I saw myself as a change agent who would work to facilitate curriculum planning meetings to integrate the principles of Positive Psychology into the regular classroom curriculum.  While I did have periodic meetings with the counselors in the other buildings and the school psychologist, it was clear that their roles were the normal and conventional one of working to support student mental health specifically for students who were struggling and with potential deficits. The wellness coaching aspect of my school counseling position would be to help support the wellness of all students and staff and in my mind parents helping them engage their character strengths within PERMAH to hopefully thrive. And yes, at the same time, I would do my normal counseling duties of supporting students struggling socially and/or emotionally.

My next step was to review the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for coaches which had guided me previously in my work. I also reviewed the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) school counselor standards. The ISTE coaching standards definitely feel like a better fit as I work to think about what the job description and possible standards might look like for wellness coaching in K-12 schools.

Here are the ISTE coaching standards which line up directly with almost any coaching of teachers position whether it be in coaching reading, writing, STEM, etc.

  • Change Agent
  • Connected Learner
  • Collaborate
  • Learning Designer
  • Professional Learning Facilitator
  • Data-Driven Decision-Maker
  • Digital Citizen Advocate

I think going forward that I might write individual blog posts on each of these standards and how they in my mind fit the role of wellness coaching. I also will see if I can get my hands on any wellness coaching job descriptions possibly from some international schools.

Supporting Post> Counseling Job Description

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Well-Being Daily Practices

I am finishing up a class entitled “Self-Care & Well-Being for Helping Professionals”  taught by Dr. Mark Thurston and Mary Elizabeth Lynch at George Mason University in Virginia. Dr. Thurston gave us a choice to choose from three well-being practices to apply each day for a couple weeks. He used the term “consciousness discipline” to describe the process of applying them. They are protocols that you probably have tried or heard about. Dr. Thurston presented them in such a clear fashion that I am sharing them here.

  • Each morning when you get up, write down three positive expectations for the day; and at the end of the day write down three things for which you are grateful which happened in that day just ending.  We can think of this option as the “brief journaling for optimism and for gratitude”  (BJOG).  For the morning-time positive expectations, let them be things around which you have some control.  For example, don’t pick “I expect it will not rain today” or “I expect my boyfriend will be in a good mood.”  Instead, you can pick positive things you expect yourself to do (such as “I will work on my homework without distractions for two hours”) and things that are more internal about attitudes and emotions (such as, “I will remain patient even when unexpected, annoying things arise”).
  • Each day for the week, try your best to talk about other people only in the way that you would if that person were present to hear what you are saying about him or her.  We can think of this option as a way to cultivate greater self-awareness about social relationships and to be compassionate in how we think about and how we talk about others.  We could call it the “compassionate social intelligence” discipline (CSI).
  • Try throughout the day to make eye-contact with others as you listen to them and as you talk to them.  Allow this action to be an expression of your full attention to them.  It’s a way to reinforce seeing and caring about others.   We could call it simply “paying attention with eye contact” (PAEC).  (I can see extending this protocol by trying to be a full on active listener moving beyond just eye. An additional extension that compliments this process is engaging Active Constructive Responding (ACR) along with my strategy of acknowledgingvalidatingcelebrating when others are sharing with us.)

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Photo & Audio Documentation to Support Wellness

In previous posts I mentioned the importance of documenting one’s wellness efforts. Specifically, I wrote about recording to then reflect upon the exercising of our character strengths within each of the PERMAH pillars. This process includes taking photos of, recording a short video and/or voice recording descriptions of our wellness actions/activities to then be added to a school developed wellness app or if there is a commercial Positive Psychology app that offers this functionality.

Other options include uploading the wellness in action photos, videos and/or audio descriptions to one’s portfolio and/or to a wellness journal with provided reflection prompts, if the school provides either as part of their wellness program for the community. I say community to include not just students but also staff members and parents. The bottom line is that yes, we need to understand the principles of wellness but even more importantly, we need to be actionable with our wellness knowledge to live and reflect upon that knowledge in our lives.

Drilling down on this documentation process, one tool that we can pull from our wellness toolkit is the smart phone/tablet that is ubiquitous in our society. Whether you are engaging your strength of creativity to come up with a nutritious smoothie recipe within the H of PERMAH or you are in a flow state writing a poem within the Engagement pillar, you can take a few seconds to snap a photo and/or record a quick voice description of your action(s) to later go into your wellness app, portfolio and/or journal. 

One specific documentation effort can take place as part of your periodic or possibly daily gratitude effort. Whether you are taking what I call a “beauty break” to take in something beautiful in your environment and/or simply thinking about a person, event, experience, etc. that brings forth grateful thoughts and emotions, you can record that moment in the moment via your device.

We definitely want to stay in those mindful moments so the recording should be limited to a very short interruption so that we can remain in the experiential state. The shadow side of this process is of course getting caught up in recording instead of experiencing. And of course, if one extends the sharing to social networking there is the positive of community support and of potentially bringing beauty into the lives of others which is countered if the effort is intended for the sake of digital likes instead of simply enjoying the P of Positive Emotions that can accompany the wellness moments. 😉

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41 Questions to Support Your Digital Wellness

I ran across a thought leader who posted 41 questions to help his readers unpack their relationship with technology. The author is L.M. Sacasas and here is his post. NY Times podcaster and journalist Ezra Klein dives deep with L.M. Sacasas to unpack several of the questions with exemplars. It is an episode really worth listening to.

41 questions is a lot to go through as they really do provoke and push one to pause and contemplate the influence of technology. But I think it is really worth taking the time to think about how we as educators can use the questions in our class discussions on digital wellness. I also can see bringing the questions into individual parent meetings, workshops and the school parent portal.

Families can pick questions to discuss during family meetings. It would take a series of meetings of course but the time spent not only helps family members think deeper about how technology affects them, the question answering and reflection time also is a good model to help individuals stop and go through the reflection process about a number of influences upon their lives. A nice connection is to bring in the family mission statement listing the values of the family to see how they can be incorporated into the answering of the questions.

Most of the questions can be adapted to be understandable for Middle and High School students. One blended learning approach is to have the students respond to the questions outside of class recording their answers by using an online discussion tool to get some sharing going before class. Once in class, students can work in groups to share their responses to possibly come up with scenarios of specific tech tools to document how they answer the questions.

And just as with the parents, if you previously did some work with students on values clarification, you could do a separate lesson with students looking through the lens of their values to see how much their tech use lines up with their belief system.

It would take some time to choose and adapt the questions that elementary students can answer by doing junior versions possibly with some scaffolding that includes real life examples.

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Student Journaling with Big Life Journal

Student journaling to reflect about school subjects and/or personal ideas is a powerful and proven tool. Several of my posts cover this topic of student journals/planners. I recently ran across a company called Big Life Journal that provides journals based on SEL and aspects of Positive Psychology. I will be ordering copies to review but what I am seeing on the website looks good regarding the prompts, topics and templates that can help students grow their self-understanding while adding “tools” to their personal wellness toolkits.

An important part of my working with parents is to give them parenting materials that include strategies and templates to put them in the role of life coach for their children. Hopefully the Big Life journals for elementary and for middle/high school students can be an a helpful addition to my parent coaching toolkit.

I could see my next school either purchasing copies for all students or really promoting the idea of parents purchasing the books. Our Wellness Team could then design education materials and workshops to help parents support their coaching of their children in using the journals. I could also see using the parent portal wellness section to house the tutorials while also using the community wellness blog to post weekly strategies in how to use the journals.

Another approach could be to go through the school wellness program to have classroom teachers in the elementary assigning tasks in the journals for students to do in class and/or at home depending on how the school uses the journal. My vote would be for home use with a possible teacher/parent partnership as a big part of the effort that would be to grow parent understanding in how to support the emotional, social and general wellness growth of their children.

Again, I don’t have a copy of the book but I wonder if they have a digital wellness and/or citizenship section. I think these topics would need their own book as the topics are related to emotional and social well-being but are more in application of one’s emotional and social intelligence character strengths.

I can say that my current parents are very open to parenting guidance on wellness, the use of technology/media and how their children interact with others via technology. I wonder if Common Sense Media has some form of workbook/journal for at home use.

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