The Noble Role of Teachers:

Transforming Ourselves to Change the World


“All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others.
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.”

— Shantideva (2006)

The Way of the Bodhisattwa

Wellbeing is an elusive concept. For us, it connotes personal and emotional resilience (personal and emotional wellbeing), a capacity to make a productive contribution to local, national and international communities that presupposes a sense of belonging and a growing communicative competence (social wellbeing) and a capacity to think deeply, creatively and critically (intellectual wellbeing).
— Ron Toomey, Terry Lovat, Neville Clement and Kerry Dally (Eds.) (2010)

Teacher Education and Values Pedagogy: A Student Wellbeing Approach

Governments and education authorities are slow to recognize the economic and administrative tsunami that awaits the Australian secondary school system in the form of rising teacher stress and disillusionment. The disturbing news that almost 50 percent of new teachers leave their profession before they have completed even five years of classroom teaching is a clear signal that something has to change. As we said before in Study Session 5, it does not seem likely that changes in government policy aimed at easing teachers’ debilitating levels of work stress will be arriving in the near future.

For those teachers who will not be resigning – primarily because they have made a life-long commitment to teach the young – it is imperative that we find ways to reduce their work stress and also help them to rediscover more and general wellbeing.

One of the most effective ways to bring this about is to increase our sense of self-awareness about how happy or unhappy we are in different contexts. Self-awareness exercises prompt us to stand back from ourselves to gain a better perspective. In doing so, we step into the shoes of our Observer Self, allowing us to ask the question, “What could be changed in my life to lift my overall feeling of wellbeing and life satisfaction?” Reflecting in this way, insights arise as to how we can tap into our inborn inner quietude, wisdom, love and joy.

The Exercise to follow gives us the opportunity to do just that: to become more self-aware of how we are dealing with life, and to create action plans to enhance life-satisfaction and wellbeing.

The Exercise

Our real nature is all bliss,
And all the pleasure we know
Is but a reflection, an atom,
Of all the bliss that we get
From touching our real nature.
— Swami Vivekananda (1863 – 1902)

There are a number of assessment tools for measuring our general level of wellbeing (search: ‘self-assessment of wellbeing’). The one used by the National Health System in UK (see below), although brief, is regarded as valid and reliable, suitable for giving a measure of wellbeing that can be compared with our score from a follow-up assessment sometime in the future.

The Exercise – Step 1

Download here and print out the wellbeing assessment form. It is from: self-assessment.htm

The Exercise – Step 2

Answer the 14 questions by ticking one of the five options. This will give you a score of between 1 and 5 for each of the questions.

    The Exercise – Step 3

    Add up your scores, giving a total score of between 14 and 70, and see whether your level of wellbeing (according to this test) is ‘below average’, ‘average’ or ‘above average’.

    The Exercise – Step 4

    Look at those questions where your score was the lowest and decide on an Action Plan to improve your wellbeing in those areas of your life.

    For example, if someone scored ‘rarely’ (2 points) for question 7 ( ‘I’ve been thinking clearly’), they might design an Action Plan to address this low sense of wellbeing in the following way:

    My Action Plan:

    • I will internet search the question: “How can I think more clearly?” and act on at least two of the ideas that appeal to me.
    • I will spend five minutes, four times every day, practising mindful breathing – that is, focussing my attention on the breath, and letting go of any thoughts that arrive to take my attention away from watching the breath.
    • Twice a day, I will count up to 100 in 2’s and 3’s (e.g. 2,3; 4,6; 6,9;….66,99). And then back down again from 100 in 2’s and 3’s (e.g. 98,97; 96,94; 94, 91;….34, 1).
    • I will do the above for two weeks and, if necessary, rewrite my Action Plan to increase its effectiveness.
    The Exercise – Step 5

    Record your Action Plan in your Journal, and make further entries every two weeks for perhaps three months as to its effectiveness in elevating your sense of wellbeing, general happiness and life satisfaction.

    You should consider Love as your very life. I often tell my students: when the electric current of Truth flows through the wire of Right Conduct and enters the bulb of Peace, you get the light of Love. In order to cultivate Love, you should adhere to the values of Truth and Right Conduct. Speak the truth; speak in a palatable way; and do not utter truth that is unpleasant. The first is moral value, the second is social value, and the third is spiritual value.
    — Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)

    We are born to be perpetually happy, but all too often we feel unhappy. This is a tragedy; it is like the man who died of thirst even though he was standing knee-deep in a fresh water stream; or like the man who closed his eyes and stumbled along in the darkness. The source of happiness is in him; the source of light is in his eyes. Real education is to teach man how to tap into this spring of joy and light.
    — Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)

    It seems to me that everything in the light and air ought to be happy; whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough.
    — Walt Whitman (1819 -1892)
    Leaves of Grass.