Teaching Well-Being: The Third Path

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 Pathhow 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.

So many sticky notes already!

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:

The Third Path, p. 17

This is all summarized by a simple equation:

The Third Path, p. 23

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.


2 thoughts on “Teaching Well-Being: The Third Path

  1. So happy that you have shared your thoughts and this video Steve (I love the tired and frazzled looking cartoon character, I feel like if you added a blond wig it would pass as me)! I completely agree, we cannot teach wellbeing but provide the conditions for wellbeing to take place. Bringing this the the forefront of Educator’s minds will surely help them to focus on Human Development rather than mainly on academic achievement with a side helping of H. D. I’m thoroughly enjoying this read as its challenging my current practice, and change does not come with challenge! Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts and discussing. Cheers!

    1. Thanks, Danya. What I’m thinking the most about when reading is how much of a change this presents to the teaching profession. Subject knowledge is vitally important for preparing students to succeed in school and the workplace. However, if we are moving towards Human Development in schools then the role of a teacher changes dramatically – especially when the emphasis is on powerful, positive relationships. This change in roles is something that I suspect will make some teachers uncomfortable. Therefore, we need to consider how to support them so they can best support our students. That’s what I’m about to write about now!

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