We applaud OEA Choice Trust on the completion of another successful Oregon School Employee Wellness Conference, attended by 250 or so Oregon educators during spring break. In the midst of the challenges and pressures affecting our educators, the vision of OEA Choice, conference sponsors, presenters and participants is encouraging and powerful.
The mission of OEA Choice Trust is to provide expertise and resources to help Oregon public school employees create comprehensive and flexible wellness programs to build a culture of wellness that becomes the norm in school workplaces. Its staff have been important partners for us at the Institute and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.
The conference keynote, provided by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky was a compelling reminder of the challenges our educators experience most work moments. Lipsky is the author of Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others. She reminded the audience that trauma experienced not just by teachers and staff, but children and families, is not just the result of major disasters, and includes not just post-traumatic but also pre-traumatic stressors. Lipsky asked the question, “Are you sure that all this trauma work hasn’t gotten to you?” Lipsky effectively uses her humor to share many underlying challenges and realities that those in the education field, particularly, can relate to. For example, this quip: “Bad news – that fire in your belly is actually an ulcer.” And she asked the audience that while you may be bringing your highest self to work, how often is it that nothing seems to be left for that same self on the home or life front? How often, she asked, are educators numbing out, and what is your capacity to stay present? I was reminded, that this same message would resonate to caregivers everywhere. Thank you to the Trust for honoring all participants with a copy of Lipsky’s book: I, for one, am eager to read it.
During the conference, we were also reminded about the power of positive and happy stories. It bears repeating that the human brain is primed for the negative, and more easily encodes negative messages than those that are positive. By taking the time to exercise our brains to remember positive and happy stories – spending at least 14 seconds to help encode our brain – can move all of us toward higher well-being. For after all, we are better teachers, caregivers, employees, family members, friends and citizens when we have the capacity to feel good about ourselves and our world around us.