WELLBEING – Tedi Ware “Healing from the beginning”

A real pleasure to introduce Tedi Ware from the US to our blog posts. Tedi has a wealth of experience who has delivered innovative ideas around education for many years. Thank you Tedi and we look forward to working with you. Gareth Presch, Founder, World Health Innovation Summit.

TEDI WARE – “Healing from the beginning”

I grew up in the 50’s when the principle of “Children should be seen and not heard,” formed the basis of most parenting strategies. Feelings were something you were not supposed to have and if you were brazen enough to have them, you were required to ignore or suppress them; that’s just the way it was back then! We all learned to disconnect from our most authentic selves and pretend everything was okay when in reality—it was far from okay. This still happens quite a bit, not just where I live, but pretty much everywhere in the world. To complicate things—today, excessive time devoted to electronic devices is causing diminished ability and desire to connect not only with one’s own genuine feelings but also with the feelings of others.

Our brains are wired for empathy and connection; what happens when we don’t get those precious intangibles? We don’t have to look very far to find the answer; increasing depression, violence, isolation, suicide and murder are becoming the new norm and mental illness affects roughly one out of five families in the US. I started teaching school in 1970 in Miami—a time and place where violence on public school campuses prevailed—not just between students but also directed at teachers from students. My first day on the job as a teacher, I was handed a heavy, 24-inch long, half-inch thick wooden paddle and was strongly advised to use it! My class was middle school special education with students who could not read and who were described to me as mentally ill and dangerous. I was warned to watch my back. What I discovered very quickly was that no one was watching my students’ backs!

Without realizing at the time, I had inadvertently stepped on to a lifelong path of dedicating myself to raising awareness for the need of empathic connection in all relationships—particularly those between adults and kids. Without it, quality of life simply doesn’t happen! I was convinced then and even more now, forty-five years later, that we can only really learn, thrive and reach our greatest potential in an atmosphere of empathy, unconditional love, kindness and compassionate connection. To this goal, I have facilitated workshops for students, teachers and parents in the US, China, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, and Korea.

At the heart of everything I do is what I call the sanctity of emotions—the ethic of genuinely honoring all feelings by learning how to identify and manage them appropriately using the principle of empathy as the foundation. For decades, I met with mountains of resistance when informing parents and teachers that if they wanted their students to succeed academically, they would first have to model socially and emotionally intelligence behaviors themselves and use empathic language in their own communication.

Finally however, this concept is coming of age and the recognition of the need for students to practice mindfulness and develop social and emotional intelligence skills is currently trending worldwide. Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are beginning to be taught in schools and recognized as the bedrock upon which academic learning is founded.

In 2013, I published my first book, Empathy Warriors, an interactive journal workbook. I wrote Empathy Warriors with the intention that independent readers could self-empower by working through requirements at the end of each chapter; but my greatest hope is the establishment of Empathy Warriors After School Clubs and Empathy Warriors Support Groups where readers can collaborate in small, informal groups to learn and then teach others the basic social and emotional intelligence skills that my book teaches using meditation, writing, art and drama.

I am currently developing a series of children’s picture books for ages 3 to 10, focusing on specific theme such as: dealing with loss, competition, anger, fear, jealousy, bullying, self-esteem etc. Ultimately, my hope is to find illustrators for my children’s books who are themselves, children and youth! Each of my picture books will be accompanied by teaching guides for parents and teachers.

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