Why Teachers Need to Care about Self-Care (Contact, April 2019)

teacher self-care Apr 08, 2019


“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel”. -Eleanor Brownn

Teaching is a profession that requires giving of one’s self to make a difference for students. The chronic use of empathy and depletion of emotional resources are strongly associated with emotional exhaustion and/or professional burnout (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001). Also, challenges such as student behaviour, precarious work, multiple workloads or administrative responsibilities can add to the pressures of this demanding profession.

There is a growing interest in the area of student well-being but everyone must flourish, including students, teachers, and administrative staff. Research studies suggest that learning happens best when teachers and their students are well but the added benefit is that as teachers flourish, relationships with students,...

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Did attending a 3-day happiness summit make me happier?

From March 15 to 17, 2019, I had the great pleasure of attending WOHASU’s World Happiness Summit. The event was held at the beautiful University of Miami campus, and since I flew down from Canada, I appreciated the palm trees, sunshine and warmth. UM was also the perfect location because this institution is making “mattering, fairness and wellness” part of their mission statement which could be adopted by all educational institutions. 

In the last three years, I have read as much as possible related to the science of positive psychology or human flourishing and completed two certificates from a Canadian university. Learning about flourishing and happiness and finding ways to apply it to my life and work has been a joy. So, you probably are not surprised that I would be one of those people who would want to attend a 3-day happiness conference.

Am I a happier person because of the summit?  It’s hard to say because I'm already a...

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60 in 60 Challenge: March - Month 3 (13 new activities!)

March was a great month.  Ok - maybe it's because I got to spend a week in Miami :)  

Here's what I did in the month of March:

15. Interviewed for a Podcast 

Thank you to James Rice for interviewing me for his podcast.  https://www.spreaker.com/user/jamesriceshow/teacherpreneur

16. Attended an International Women's Day Lunch

I attended an event in my city and brought my surrogate daughter Jaimie with me (she is the coolest 20-year old I have ever met).  We were inspired by the speaker, Farah Khan.  

17. Organized and Moderated a Panel at the TESOL Convention

I was thrilled to be able to organize a stellar group of teaching professionals as panelists at the TESOL Convention in Atlanta.  They spoke about writing materials writing using a social responsibility lens.  Fascinating content!

18. Visited CNN

The TESOL Convention was just across the street from CNN.  I have become a bit of a CNN junkie in the last few...

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60 in 60 Challenge: February - Month 2 (spoiler alert - winter blahs)

february winter blahs Mar 01, 2019

 February - Month 2 

Here's the latest update on my 60 in 60 Challenge.  A month to go until I hit the big 60!

Month 2 Update:

February was very, very cold and luckily a short month.  My son Andrew was home from university for 10 days for his mid-term break which threw me off my schedule somewhat (do you hear an excuse coming?).

Here is a list of the new things I tried in February - Month 2:

10. Travelled to Ottawa by Train

I was invited to give the plenary at the TESL Ottawa conference.  It's been more than 35 years since I have been to Ottawa (our nation's capital) and the first time by train.  It was an enjoyable 4 hours where I read, dozed and read a bit more.  I had a window seat but there wasn't much to see expect fields and snow.  

11. Volunteered to be part of TEDx Event

I have always wanted to attend a TEDTalk so I decided to join a group of people organizing a TEDx in Burlington (TEDxLakeshoreRd).  The event will be...

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60 in 60 Challenge: January - Month 1


60 in 60:   My 2019 Well-being Challenge

January - Month 1 

Last month I blogged about my 2019 challenge which is to try 60 new things in my 60th year (http://bit.ly/2Pen3ow). I’m still not thrilled about turning 60 in a few months but because of my 60 in 60 Challenge, I have been focused on planning new things to try instead of negatively fixated on the inevitable. 

Background Information

If you didn’t read my first blog, here is a synopsis:

  • I’m putting everything I’ve learned about positive psychology* or the science of flourishing and well-being into practice to be happier (happiness is a choice)
  • Happiness is contagious so why not spread it around?
  • Being active and learning new things is good for us especially as we age
  • I recently moved to Burlington, Ontario, Canada and want to explore my new city
  • Taking part in 60 new activities will be a way for me to use my character strengths** which is a sure way to increase happiness


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60 in 60: My 2019 Well-being Challenge

60 in 60:   My 2019 Well-being Challenge

In 2019, I turn 60 years old.  I’m not really sure how it snuck up on me but for most of this year, I fretted about it.  In fact, I was really quite unhappy until I decided that I needed to put everything I have learned about positive psychology, or the science of happiness, flourishing and well-being into practice.*  Thus the idea of completing 60 activities in my 60th year was born.**

Happiness is a Choice

The way I saw it was that I had two choices.  I can choose to be bummed out and miserable about turning 60 or I could choose happiness.  Being happy doesn’t just happen and it can be hard work but the good news is that there are many simple things that we can do to be happier (like practicing gratitude daily).  It’s also contagious so why not spread it around? Don’t get me wrong – it’s completely unrealistic to be happy all the time. It’s normal to...

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Motivating Students using Character Strengths

character strengths Aug 23, 2018

A few years ago, while conducting research for a course I was developing as a freelancer, I discovered the science of positive psychology (if you don’t know anything about it, watch this great 5-minute whiteboard video). Traditional psychology typically looks at what is wrong with us, while positive psychology looks at what is right with us. Our strengths are as important as weaknesses. I was fascinated by this evidence-based science and pondered how I could apply it to second language acquisition.

I feel that one of the most interesting areas in positive psychology is exploring character strengths (some examples include honesty, zest, love of learning, perseverance, gratitude, and curiosity). Approximately 55 scientists reviewed the best thinking on virtues and positive human qualities in the areas of theology, psychology, and philosophy from the past 2,500 years over a three-year period. The result was a compilation of 24 character...

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Power Pose: Real or Placebo Effect?

power pose Mar 10, 2017

Almost one year ago, I wrote about Amy Cuddy and her research related to the "power pose".  If you didn't read that post, here is the link (http:// https://www.patricepalmer.ca/blog/the-super-hero-pose-fact-or-fiction).

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the "power pose", it means adopting a posture or stance like a "superhero" (hands on hips, standing tall and powerful).  The idea is that we gain confidence from standing like a super hero!  

Cuddy faced much criticism regarding her research and book - Presence Bringing Your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges (http://amzn.to/2mU6OmJ.   

According to Cuddy, "the key finding is simple: adopting expansive postures causes people to feel more powerful".  She reports that this effect has been replicated in at least nine published studies and in at least four unpublished studies from nine different labs.

In addition, Cuddy argues that "what’s absolutely clear from...

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What I learned from my burn-out as a teacher

"Self-Care is so important. You cannot serve from an empty vessel". Eleanor Brownn.

"I love this quote from Eleanor Brownn. I start my teacher well-being workshops with this quote. The relief on the faces of teachers is very evident when they hear it! It’s almost as if we need permission to give ourselves this self-care. However, we are the only ones who can give ourselves this permission!"  Fiona Forman

Teacher burn-out is a serious issue.  This post includes my personal experience and a wonderful interview with Fiona Forman, a teacher from Ireland, and Co-creator of the Weaving Well-Being Program.

Many of you know that I left classroom teaching after 20 years in December 2015. It was very hard to admit that I was burned-out so I jokingly told colleagues that I was retiring (even though I was years away from retirement). Being "burned-out" seemed like a weakness. In fact, this is the first time that I am actually admitting it.

So what caused my burn...

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Why everyone needs a "Ray"!  

Uncategorized Dec 07, 2016

Exactly one year ago today, I left my job as an ESL teacher after 20 years (including 7 incredible years in Hong Kong). I had known for a year or so that it was time for a change because I was feeling uninspired and tired. I felt the need to learn some new skills and travel at any time of the year, not just school breaks.  I craved a creative outlet but I wasn't really sure what to do.

Was it frightening to think about life outside the classroom?  Yes! But little did I know that having support to push ahead would be key in achieving so much in the past year.  This is why I believe that we all need a "Ray"!


So who is Ray?  A few years ago, my friend Ray asked me if I could write an online course for him.  I said that I could and did. He also asked me to attend a 4 day training event for coaches, writers and online course developers. I went with the intention that I would learn more to help him with other online courses, but I ended...

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