Recently, I came across an old journal that I kept as a teenager. Among the typical entries about boys, friends, and parents, there was one about what I wanted to do when I grew up. With the infallible wisdom of a 13-year-old, I had written that I wanted to teach people—particularly children—how to live happy lives.
Little did I know that many, many years later, I would get to do just that.
I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the Greater Good Science Center as its first-ever Education Director, where my primary responsibility—much to the delight of my 13-year-old self—is not only to help people live happier, more meaningful lives, but to teach them how to teach others these same skills. This is a rare and special opportunity, and it enables me to build on the ideas that have spurred my career in education.
During my tenure as a teacher and school administrator, I maintained that school was not just about academics but about learning skills for getting along with others, managing emotions, and creating a life of meaning and purpose. I realized that kids could achieve all kinds of professional and financial success and still be miserable if they lacked basic social-emotional and other life-skills—and that, quite often, those skills are a key to success in school and beyond. But I wasn’t entirely clear myself about what those skills entailed and how best to teach them.
Then I discovered Positive Psychology. At last, here was a science-based approach that identified and gave practical applications for what constitutes a happy life. Research was showing us that happiness is dependent not on material success but on things such as developing close relationships, giving to others, being grateful, and creating meaning in our lives. Eager to learn more, I enrolled in a doctoral program in education and Positive Psychology. I remember sitting in my first Positive Psychology class thinking, “We have to get this into schools.”
Fast forward to my new role at the Greater Good Science Center. My plan as the GGSC’s new Education Director is to create a vibrant, caring community where education professionals from all over the world can get the latest research-based, easy-to-use resources for bringing more compassion, flow, resilience, mindfulness, laughter, and other positive qualities into their work and their own lives. I’m especially excited that the GGSC focuses not just on personal happiness, but on altruism, empathy, forgiveness, and gratitude—all of which lead to better relationships, including the all-important relationship between teacher and student, and stronger communities.
Some of the offerings of the GGSC’s new education program will include:
- Articles and lesson plans that translate cutting-edge science into practical ideas teachers and administrators can apply in the classroom and school setting in general;
- “Teacher Care” articles on how educators can deal with the stress from the awesomely challenging work they do;
- A weeklong summer institute for teachers and administrators that explores the benefits of social-emotional learning (SEL) and other GGSC topics for their students and for themselves, through an in-depth, hands-on experiential curriculum;
- Ongoing professional development opportunities, including webinars and workshops;
- Collaboration with other educational organizations to infuse their curricula and other materials with Greater Good science;
- Recommendations of books that you and your colleagues might want to discuss.
I invite all of you to be part of the international conversation about how we can shift the educational landscape. I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, needs, and experiences related to our new education program. Please sign up here to get our monthly newsletter so we can stay in touch.
Together, I believe we can improve the well-being of students, teachers, administrators, and schools in general—a vital step toward nurturing a more compassionate and resilient society.