I just finished “A Whole New Mind” by Dan Pink. He suggests that in the Conceptual Age (what he thinks we are entering after the information age), we will need more Right Brain based skills: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. He describes how feeling professions such as nursing are growing at large rates in the US. That medical schools are adding classes to help doctors be better caregivers by sensing their patients feelings during diagnosis. He sites research that shows that being more empathetic for patients helps them heal faster. I would add to his arguments that teachers are another one of those ‘feeling’ professions, and must know their students so that they can guide their learning by finding the students’ passions and what motivates the student.
As a teacher and administrator, Pink’s suggested right brain based skills resonate with me: The sense of play in learning (see this post by Arvind Grover); telling the New Story; watching the symphony of a orchestrated lesson; using empathy in instruction and assessment; and providing a meaning for learning and teaching.
In the chapter on meaning, under the heading, “Taking Happiness Seriously” Pink quotes describes the work of
Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, the founder of the positive psychology movement, and the president of the American Psychological Association starting in 1998. Seligman describes three levels of happiness:
– The Pleasant Life — a life full of positive emotions about the past, present, and future.
– The Good Life — in which you use your “signature strengths” (what you’re great at) to achieve gratification in the main areas of your life … “A calling is the most satisying form of work because, as gratification, it is done for its own sake rather than for the material benefits it brings,” says Seligman, “Enjoying the resulting state of flow on the job will soon, I predict, overtake material reward as the principal reason for working.
– The Persuit of Meaning — knowing that your highest strenghts are and deploying them in the service of something larger than you are”
I hope that all teachers and students are working towards the persuit of meaning.
Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning are critical parts of my professional and personal life, and I look forward to exploring them more deeply through the exercises at the end of each of Pink’s chapters. Thanks, Dan, for a book that from which I am actively learning.