Few educators would disagree with the argument that that relationships and well-being are important areas of focus in our schools. However, as Dr. David Tranter, Lori Carson, and Tom Boland write in The Third Path, how those things are taught is definitely more challenging. Teachers are pushed to focus on curriculum expectations meaning that well-being and relationship-building becomes something akin to extra-curriculars, (sort of important, but not as important as numeracy and literacy) or treated like its own subject, (where teachers then measure a student’s ability to know and apply aspects of “well-being”). If we acknowledge that well-being is important, then clearly we need to rethink how we “teach” it in our schools.
I’ve only read the first three chapters of the book, but I like it for many reasons. First, the authors acknowledge that it’s all well-and-good to identify some kind of academic/theoretical solution, but the focus in the body of the text is on the how to get there, broken down into small chunks with clear visuals and examples. Second, there is no sugar-coating the fact that students are complex beings with issues that are brought into schools, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and some paths aren’t easy to take. Finally, the fact that the authors are all from Thunder Bay reassures me that this book acknowledges the demographics of my area.
I also really appreciate the examination of what well-being even means. There’s no clear definition of that, either – and many educators aren’t great at establishing it in their own lives – so educators probably need help understanding what well-being is and how it relates to academic success:
This is all summarized by a simple equation:
The authors suggest that educators should use the curriculum, (with some flexibility) in a way that emphasizes the importance of relationships, (because that’s how humans learn) under eight conditions that promote achievement and well-being, (the body of the book) with the goal of positively affecting human development, (because we want our students to be more than human dictionaries and calculators).
My take-away after the first three chapters, (and hopefully my established practice at this point – which is probably why I like this book as it preaches to the choir!) is that:
- Positive relationships and conditions for learning are necessary before any “curricular learning” can effectively take place.
- Well-being will look and be different from student-to-student.
- Well-being IS NOT just about doing well in school so that you become financially well-off later in life.
- Educational research is not a hard science and there’s no guarantee this will work, BUT there’s an obvious benefit to knowing our students.
- Understanding Common Attachment Behaviours (p. 37-40) and how students respond to different triggers and stimuli, (p. 41-46) can help educators understand and support our students. Educators have limited child psychology training, so this stuff is pretty valuable.
- HOW we teach kids is so very important – and the conditions outlined in the book help educators think about this point.
Dr. David Tranter has created a great little video that explains what The Third Path is all about – and how we can’t just simply teach well-being. Check it out and let me know your thoughts…please!
I know that some of my colleagues are also reading The Third Path and I hope that I can continue the discussion with them. If you’re curious about the book, you can check out http://thirdpath.ca. Two of the authors, Tom Boland and Dr. David Tranter, are also active on Twitter.