The Noble Role of Teachers:
Transforming Ourselves to Change the World
Study Session 7 – Self-Awareness and Selfless Love: Essential Ingredients for Teachers’ and Students’ Wellbeing
Human Values Education, as promulgated by the Australian Academy for Human Excellence (AAHE) has its roots in Educare, the education philosophy of Sathya Sai Baba, and draws upon the latest research in values and character education, neuroscience and positive psychology to offer a model for teaching and learning that has as its goal the transformation of students, teachers and the community into members of a society who truly care about each other and the habitat in which we all live.
As is proposed throughout the book published by AAHE, Handbook for Teachers in Human Values Education, the essential catalyst for the change required in the education system – so that it can graduate students with commitment more to their responsibilities than to their rights – is the ongoing self-transformation of the teacher towards becoming an exemplar of the more noble human virtues. This theme was elaborated upon in Study Session 3 of this series of on-line studies: The Teacher as an Agent of Self-transformation.
Although the avowed purpose of mandatory education is to prepare the young for the workforce and for the responsibilities of adult citizenship, it is really only the former that guides national policy concerning what and how things are taught. This gross imbalance has led to teachers being weighed down with beaurocratic requirements that uses up valuable time and energy as well as interfering with their ability to do better at what they most love: teaching.
The burning question that most teachers – particularly in the public school system – are faced with is : “How can I get back to enjoying teaching while being confronted daily with a work situation that is causing nearly 50 percent of new teachers to abandon their profession in the first five years after graduation?”
Those teachers who can travel across the stormy seas of life in a sturdy boat of resilience and wellbeing provide a valuable gift to their students, showing by their example how to remain positive and open-hearted during the more stressful parts of the day. Human Values Education believes that the more important lessons to be learned during the school years are those of equanimity, tolerance, integrity, gratitude, selfless loving and all of the other noble virtues. The example set by the teachers in how they perform their classroom duties and relate to each one of their pupils moulds the character of their students in that same direction.
It is with this goal in mind that the present Study Session has been designed: to assist teachers in maximising their life satisfaction, authentic happiness and wellbeing so as to become inspiring role models for their students.
Yesterday I was clever,
so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise,
so I am changing myself.
— Jalaluddin Rumi (1207 – 1273)
In the diagram below, the journey to wellbeing and authentic happiness begins with self-awareness and self-regulation. Before we can even begin to minimize our discontent, stress or suffering, we need to become more aware of this mind-body-feeling complex in which we are residing. The practice of self-awareness gives us important information and insights about those aspects of our human condition that we have not been aware of previously. For example, as a teacher we might discover that we are impatient with students who do not comprehend instructions immediately, followed by the insightful memory that, when we were a child, our father was never happy with our school reports, regardless of any gains we had made.
Self-awareness provides both the opportunity and the material for self-regulation. To continue with the above example, once I am aware of my prejudice against particular students, I can now use certain tools to change this mental-emotional reaction that keeps me away from my natural state of Peaceful Mind and Open heart that loves, respects and finds joy in each student equally.
Those teachers with advanced levels of Peaceful Mind and Open Heart are automatically – even unconsciously – awakening these higher qualities in their students through modelling and vicarious conditioning, via the mirror neurons in the brain.
In the diagram above, the five components of authentic happiness and wellbeing (PREMA) are the boxes of diamonds that make up this oft-hidden treasure house of Peaceful Mind and Open Heart that lie within us all. The five are:
- Positive Emotions and Health
- Positive Relationships
- Positive Engagement
- Positive Meaning and Purpose
- Positive Accomplishment
You can read about each one of these five components or aspects of authentic happiness and wellbeing in Handbook for Teachers in Human Values Education, pages 232 – 244 (download here).
The highlighted letters make up the acronym for PREMA. Prema is an ancient Sanskrit word that means: the highest love that is nurturing, forgiving, all-inclusive, attracting, sustaining, unifying, unconditional, self-sacrificing and much more.
This highest love called Prema is the Sanskrit equivalent of what we are calling the Human Value of Love – one of the five universal Human Values (Love, Truth, Peace, Right Conduct and Non-violence), each of which have endless depth and breadth in their purity and power. These Human Values will be explored in some detail in a later Study Session.
Referring again to the five essential components for authentic happiness and wellbeing shown above (Positive Emotions and Health, Positive Relationships, Positive Engagement, Positive Meaning and Purpose, Positive Accomplishment), we can see that the capital letters of PREMA act as a bridge connecting each one of the five. This is to indicate that Prema or the Human Value of Love is the essential foundation for each one of these five aspects of one’s life – it is the sacred elixia that breathes the essence of true humanness into them, so that they are saturated with true beauty, power and grace.
All of the above information is to lay the groundwork for the study that you’ll be doing in the Exercise that follows:
The Exercise – Step 1
On the internet, search for: The PERMA Model: Your Scientific Theory of Happiness
The Exercise – Step 2
On the above website, read about and reflect upon each one of Martin Seligman’s five elements of authentic happiness and wellbeing.
The Exercise – Step 3
On this same website, scroll down and watch Martin Seligman’s Talk About His PERMA Model.
The Exercise – Step 4
The Exercise – Step 5
On the above website, read more about the five elements of authentic happiness and wellbeing.
The Exercise – Step 6
Referring to the book Handbook for Teachers in Human Values Education, pages 26 – 31, read what it says abut the five universal Human Values and, in particular, about the Human Value of Love.
The Exercise – Step 7
From your present understanding of the Human Value of Love (as in Step 6 above), give some thought about how to integrate this high quality of Love into each one of the five elements depicted by PREMA.
What changes would you say takes place in each one of the elements of authentic happiness and wellbeing, as defined by Martin Seligman, when we immerse them in Love, pure Love? For example, what happens to Seligman’s portrayal of ‘Positive Meaning and Purpose’ when we ensure that pure, unconditional, all-inclusive Love is regarded as the foundation upon which all else must be built?
The Exercise – Step 8
Write a short description of each one of the five elements of authentic happiness and wellbeing when they are seen as manifestations of PREMA.
The Exercise – Step 9
If you could saturate all five of the components of PREMA (Positive Emotions and Health, Positive Relationships, Positive Engagement, Positive Meaning and Purpose, Positive Accomplishment) with pure, selfless Love, how do you think this would affect the quality and satisfaction level of your teaching (or, if you are not teaching, of your everyday life)?
The Exercise – Step 10
When you are satisfied with your efforts, add to your Journal notes if it feels appropriate.
“I think you can be depressed and flourish. I think you can have cancer and flourish. I think you can be divorced and flourish. When we believed that happiness was only smiling and good mood, that wasn’t very good for people like me, people in the lower half of positive affectivity.”
— Martin Seligman (2011), Flourish
“The student should know how to live an contented, peaceful, happy life; that is more important than a degree or a class in examination. The journey into the inner consciousness to calm the storms that rage there is more important than the journey to the Moon or Mars. The latter may be more spectacular, but the former is more beneficial…
Fill the heart with Love and distribute that Love to all. Love grows with every gift of Love; the heart that pours out Love is ever full.”
— Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)