Glenna Howell, Associate Professor

  Associate Professor
  708-534-4371 ext. 4371
  Office Location: G239
  Office Hours: Contact Instructor
  College: COE
  Division of Education
  

 I love teaching future teachers.  Future teachers are some of the best people I’ve ever known:  They’re smart, hardworking, and altruistic.  They tend to be less interested in acquiring things and more interested in making a difference in children’s and adolescents’ lives.  If we’re all lucky, my future teachers just might teach children who will grow up to create vaccines to end deadly plagues, discover solutions to the pollution of our soil, water, and air, expand conservation efforts to end the depletion of the planet’s resources, and eradicate the ignorance and fear that are the basis of racism, sexism, and genocide around the world.  Those children who aren’t directly involved in solving these problems will, nevertheless, have encountered teachers who excited them about learning, enhanced their competence, initiative, and confidence, and encouraged their development of social, emotional, and relational skills that will mean they become capable global citizens.  Occasionally I encounter students who have wandered into an education major because they believe it would be a cushy job (glorified babysitting and the promise of a pension!) with summers off, but they usually transfer to another major pretty quickly after learning that the heavy college workload is simply a harbinger of teachers’ everyday lived reality. 

I began my professional life as a high school English teacher.  I adored all the great authors and never understood some of my classmates’ apathy for the great works in which I found it so easy to lose myself and my mundane problems while at the same time discovering profound truths about Life and solutions for some of those very problems.  The glorious writings I read and re-read led me to aspire to be a better writer myself, but I always knew I was not destined to write The Great American Novel.  I discovered my real calling when, working on my first doctorate, I taught at the junior high, middle grades, and finally elementary levels.  I wanted to teach future teachers how to help their students develop the kind of love for literature and language that I had.  I came to understand, however, that what happens at school may be influential, but that, whatever the nature of that time at school, it pales in significance when compared with what happens in students’ homes.  My interest in the nature of parent/child interactions and the circumstances and motivation that could result in a parent’s neglecting or abusing a child led me to pursue my second doctorate in clinical psychology.  Those studies of the human mind and heart have not made me happier than my studies of literature and teaching, but they have provided insight into the whys of motivation, learning, and the complicated relationships among children/adolescents and their parents and teachers and other school personnel.

Over the course of my tenure at GSU, I lost a number of family members to various forms of cancer.  That experience, combined with receipt of my doctorate in clinical psychology, resulted in my being drawn to volunteer at a cancer support center where I worked with cancer patients and their caregivers.  Cancer, in all its forms, is a terrible disease that can decimate and demoralize families.  The stress of enduring the chemo, radiation, and surgery that are almost always prescribed or the stress of loving and supporting someone who endures these assaults on a body already ravaged by the disease can take a terrible toll on individuals and families, a toll only exacerbated by isolation.  I was honored by the opportunity to lead group sessions providing mindfulness skills for those stricken with cancer as well as groups for their caregivers that, frankly, turned out to be as healing for me as for the participants.  This work has been the most rewarding community activity that I have ever engaged in and has led to my current research interest in bringing mindfulness training to other audiences such as preservice teachers to provide them with skills and abilities to enhance their social and emotional competence (SEC) and, ultimately, their classroom management skills.  Teachers with SEC based in mindfulness training become ideal role models and mindfulness instructors for their own students whose lives outside school, which can be chaotic or violent, hindering focus and concentration, thoughtful decision making, and the development of significant relationships, may be transformed through secular mindfulness practices.

 

To view Dr. Howell's current vitae, click here.