Teacher well-being is my business. I’m a mother of a child about to start school, I’m an EdD student, and a practitioner psychologist too. I like people and am intrigued by the factors which move and motivate them and see far too often, the factors that don’t. I was drawn to Emma’s blog via twitter not only because of her interest in teacher well-being but also because she has just completed the EdD journey I’m currently negotiating.
My doctoral writing has taken a somewhat creative stance, in my first essay about epistemological positioning for example, I wrote:
It’s not easy being essentially liberal, agnostic and ambivalent; indeed, I am the sort of person who, despite its advertising trope (Hodson, 2010), quite likes Marmite. Though I can appear subversive with ideas, opinions and musings, I’m not fundamentalist about anything. I subscribe to questions and co-creation of possible meaning. I contest absolute answers for non-absolute situations. I perhaps represent art not science, or simply someone very awkward.
So you get the idea, I want to research an area that might say the unsayable. My interest in teacher well-being is grounded in my everyday clinical experience as a Counselling Psychologist. My working life has, more by accident than design, involved me working (and being directly full time employed for 3 years) in schools. The assumption is that I work to support young people’s mental health and contribute to improvements in pupil behaviour. This is true of course, but in many many of my consultations, I find myself supporting staff who simply don’t have the capacity to reflect on their interactions, who offload the impact of significant life events which seem to be expected to be left on the carpark, and who are demoralised, dejected and frustrated. In contrast, I also meet highly resilient teachers, who ooze growth mindset and sustain an energy akin to Tigger in the Hundred Acre Wood. I’m interested in these people too, what is it about them or their context that is different?
In a reflective essay about my first year on the doctorate programme, I wrote a piece called ‘ Aspiring to be Eddie’ and used the metaphor of learning to surf to illustrate my experience (of largely feeling out of my depth). Seeking the origin and emotional significance of my surfing analogy I recalled a secondary school deputy headteacher who once warmly referred to me as ‘Eddie Would Go’ after a particularly challenging child protection meeting. The Eddie he referred to was Eddie Aikau, deemed to be one of the most respected names in surfing. He was the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay on the island of Oahu, regarded as a big wave surfer and saved many lives. In 1968 he became the first lifeguard employed by the City and County of Honolulu to work on the North Shore. It is reported that not a single life was lost during his career and that Eddie would brave surf reaching 20 feet or more in order to rescue someone. The phrase ‘Eddie Would Go’ refers to his resolve to take on the waves that no other surfers would dare and his courage to rescue in otherwise impossible situations.
It would be narcissistically outlandish for me to picture myself as a brave and iconic rescuer, but I am interested in giving voice to those who are otherwise not heard – perhaps asking questions that others dare not to ask or reporting potentially contentious findings. Interestingly for me, this does not draw me to necessarily the most obviously sidelined or stereotypically assumed disempowered participants for research, but to those who are assumed and positioned not to be marginalised – like teachers and educational support staff, for example. I aspire to be like Eddie in that within the surfing arena he used his propensity for strength and skill to help others. I want to be like Eddie and want to be EdD.
For my thesis I am going to research teacher well-being. In a recent literature review assignment I concluded:
…my passion for the topic remains, that existing research indicates a need for further investigation and my epistemological position justifies this in that it recognises that changes in government, policy and trends can impact individuals and groups.
And this is where you, yes YOU, come in. I’m an insider-outsider researcher. I’m a non-teacher in and out of various schools and educational establishments, an occasional twitter discussion contributor and longstanding lurker to many twitter posts and chats. I have ideas, but I don’t want to research what I think is important – your voices are the ones that matter. Between us, we can determine and refine my research question:
To this end, I have ethical approval from the University of Wolverhampton to host a twitter chat on Wednesday 27th April from 8pm-9pm. I’ll be inviting discussion about your views of the concept of teacher well-being, what the most pertinent area for research is and generally how important this area feels for you. There will be information explaining the nature of the chat and how your tweet contributions will be used for thematic analysis posted via a web link in due course. I’m looking forward to it already and hope you and your colleagues will join me.
Chartered and Registered Counselling Psychologist
Director, Reach Psychology Ltd
EdD Student, University of Wolverhampton