Tag Archives: professional education

An Exercise in Gratitude

Adult urgent care entranceGratitude is one of the pillars of happiness — “the parent of all virtues” (Wood, Joseph and Linley, 2007). Here is a way to begin the New Year on a positive note.  I created this task for professionals-in-training and their teachers, but others might want to try it as well.

Take some time to think about how professionals have contributed to your own well being during the course of your life. Imagining who belongs within the abstract category of workers we call “professionals” raises many issues, and you might want to think about this at a later time. For now, just go with your own sense of the matter.  In general, professionals are people who have high levels of technical expertise, practices grounded in a shared, empirically grounded knowledge-base, control over their own certification process, a comparatively high level of autonomy, a code of ethics. There are many points of view on the matter, so just see where your thoughts take you. With no pretense or hope of comprehensiveness, here are a few of my own reflections:

There were the nurses and physicians who helped my mother “deliver” me into the world, and who saw to my health in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Dr. Wright, the general practitioner, came to the house when someone was sick, examining us, and perhaps writing a prescription for the pharmacist (another professional) to fill.  There were the teachers who taught me to read, write, develop new skills, solve problems and adapt (more or less) to the demands of life in post-industrial society. Mrs. Gephart, the school nurse at Edina Elementary School, took me under her wing.  She let me help in the nurse’s office after lunch, when all the other kids went out for recess.  I much preferred the company of a caring adult to braving the frigid Minnesota cold on the playground after lunch every day! Mr. Jambeck, my 11th grade English teacher, taught me to appreciate how, in order to really understand the literature and the visual arts of each era, one needed to consider the contexts in which they were produced. In many respects, this insight made me who I am: inspired my interests and my life’s work. Architects and contractors designed and built the dwellings that gave my family and me shelter from the elements. When I was 9 or 10 years old, my Dad showed me the blueprint of our suburban home.  What a wonder!  Decades later, a wise and competent lawyer helped set me free of an unfortunate relationship that no amount of time, effort, love or forgiveness could repair…

If all this suggests an embrace of an old-style functionalist and “celebrationist” mindset — well, so be it! The experience and expression of gratitude can have personal and societal benefits (Seligman, Steen, Park and Peterson, 2005). We tend to take professionals and their contributions for granted. So every once in awhile, we ought to drop our critical lances (yes, lances, not lenses) on the ground and recalibrate, taking into consideration the benefits we derive from the professionals whose work contributes in so many ways to our health and well-being. The system as a whole is flawed, but essential to our diverse ways of life and amenable to improvement.  — Ed Prof

Further Reading

Encyclopedia of Gratitude (A free source of things for which to be grateful compiled by Erich Origen.  Print version available in February, 2012)

Gratitude (Wikipedia.Org entry provides a useful overview as well as citations of empirical studies on the nature and consequences of gratitude.)

Leo Babauta (2007). Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy .  Posted on Zenhabits.net .

References

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N.,& Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421

Wood, A., Joseph, S. and Linley, A. (2007).  Gratitude — Parent of all virtuesThe Psychologist, 20, 1:  18 – 20.

 All rights reserved, 2012

Degree Program Search Sites: A Cautionary Note

clouds on a southwestern horizon

Clouds on the Horizon

Not long ago, Gwen Jensen (pseudonym) contacted me about a website intended to help those interested in earning a masters degree in Elementary Education.  She wanted me to add a link for her site to a web page I manage that provides links to Professional Education Associations. The idea was to encourage education students to join one or more professional associations — to expand their professional lifenets.  Although Gwen offered sound advice on her (dot-org) page, something didn’t seem quite right.  First, she didn’t provide any trace of herself — her identity — on her website.  There was no date on the page, nor any sense of authorship or institutional affiliation — yet the page was supposed to serve prospective students.  (She was not forthcoming via email, either, when I pointed this out to her.)

In addition, the page was tightly linked to a commercial site that presumably provided a way to search for masters degree programs by location and area of specialization.  I used the commercial site’s search feature a number of times, entering my own area code and that of a public university located nearby.  Over half of the institutions that appeared were for-profit colleges, and all were private (rather than public) liberal arts schools. In order of appearance: University of Phoenix; Ashford; Kaplan; Keiser University Graduate School; Liberty Online; American Intercontinental; North Central; Walden; Full Sail; Grand Canyon; Lindenwood; Concordia, and Ashworth.   I guess that public colleges and universities don’t warrant inclusion in the databases of this marvelous Quin Street-hosted mechanism for garnering “views” and somehow making a profit by helping teachers locate degree programs that provide just the right “fit” with their needs!  Gwen’s motives (inferred from an email conversation with her) seemed genuine, and this makes me wonder what, exactly, is going on here?

I am even more wary about all this since receiving a second email request from another woman who said she had created a website to help people find programs that offer elementary education degrees.  And sure enough, her page contained some apparently authentic (and not carefully proofread or edited) prose combined with a link to the same commercial school-search site.  I am not sure if the same games are being played in other fields (healthcare, counseling, engineering).

There are probably many lessons to be learned from all this, but here is my cautionary note for bloggers:  be mindful about  the entities with whom you affiliate.  Think before you link.  As you work to attract attention to your blog or website or social media site, be thoughtful about where you direct your visitors’ attention.  Understand that the public sphere, and our public institutions, are being eroded in various ways by profiteers who advance their own interests with no concern for the common good.

—  Ed Prof