Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Flourishing. Relationships. Slow Food.

Positive education and all its many facets have been explored throughout this past week, at a conference sharing the same name. Hearing from a host of ‘experts’ and ‘experiencers’ on their journey of wellbeing has been incredibly insightful and beneficial. Though there’s a temptation to share the breadth of knowledge and wisdom shared this week, three things stood out among the rest: flourishing, relationships, and slow food. These ideas seemed to be woven throughout all that was discussed throughout our two days in Garden City. To truly understand the importance and value of these ideas, let me use the Golden Circle, a framework designed by author and professor, Simon Sinek.

His circle is built with ‘why’ in the centre. This is intentional. Sinek explains that the skills necessary to create and educate exist in all organisations. Everyone does something (what), and everyone has a way of doing this (how). Furthermore, most organisations not only know what they do and how they do it, they’re more than qualified to do so. However, this qualification to do doesn’t guarantee success. Sinek suggests that true success is found when you have a reason for what you do and how you do it. Sharing this ‘why’, with those you serve helps them to connect and invest in your ‘what’ and ‘how’ which is why these encircle the ‘why’. Flourishing is the why of wellbeing so let’s start there.
Flourishing. The dictionary defines this word as ‘developing successfully - thriving’ and this definition was easily seen and heard in the various presentations this week. It forms both the foundation of wellbeing while simultaneously being the desired outcome of it too. Though this alludes to its beauty and its benefit, to best capture the essence of this wonderfully nuanced idea and to view it through an educational lens, is through a question: How can we all, both staff and students, flourish? How can we feel good and do good? This question suggests two things. Firstly, ‘how can we all flourish’, calls attention the ‘village-raising’ nature of wellbeing, namely that it takes us all. Secondly, flourishing happens when we ‘feel good’ and ‘do good’. It requires managing the tension between giving and taking. Knowing these things is highly important as educators as it unites us and articulates our ever-evolving responsibility (and the pressure that comes in tow) in a simple yet profound way.
Why wellbeing? So we all can flourish.

Relationships. Sinek’s circle builds upon its why by exploring how, then what. Given his expertise, I believe in his process, however, in the case of wellbeing, I believe it’s important to explore these together. For me, the what and how of wellbeing are inextricably linked, and in this instance, it’s difficult to determine which idea fits in which circle. Regardless, let’s unpack what they mean. For most of us, the importance of relationships is not something that we need to be convinced of. Relationships exist in every sphere of our life and their impact on our wellbeing can be of both benefit and hindrance. They help us feel like we belong in a community and can greatly influence our desire to invest and stay in the said community. Though the exact nature of relationships wasn’t explored in great depth, their presence and power were acknowledged. Essentially, wellbeing rises and falls on the connections that we establish and maintain. Relationships could be considered both ‘what’ we want to happen and ‘how’ we want it to happen. The latter, how, is best captured in our last idea: slow food.

Slow Food. This term was created with another in mind: fast food. The very nature of fast food is one of convenience, particularly in a world where time is of the essence and the pressures upon us seem aplenty. Problems require quick fixes and attention requires constant keeping. However, given the complex nature of humans, the impacts this has on our profession as educators and the importance of wellbeing in a world of fast-paced-high-demands, slow food is all the more pertinent. Whatever we attempt to do in addressing wellbeing, in helping all of us to flourish, it needs to be purposeful, meaningful and sustainable. Time needs to be taken to ensure that what we do and how we do it is impactful and long-lasting. To truly allow all of us to flourish, accuracy and effectiveness far outweigh every other part of the equation.

Moving forward, there is a lot to consider - all of it, worthy of our time. As you ponder these ideas, I encourage you to consider what flourishing looks like for you and how you can contribute to the flourishing of your school. Consider the relationships you have and the connections you have made, and lastly, as we all strive to make purposeful, meaningful and sustainable change, what expertise can you offer and what grace can you give? This is no easy task but together, this village can ensure that we all flourish. Kia kaha!

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