Educators know that physical and emotional well-being are crucial to effective learning. Most, I would argue, believe that happiness and wellbeing is paramount to success. Everything that happens in a school should inspire children and foster a love of learning. In the same accord, as schools seek to challenge and inspire children to love learning, we also help students to be healthy in mind and body. In short happiness, wellbeing, learning, enjoyment and success share a direct relationship with each other.
For educators, the steps to ensuring happier learning environments in schools are simple; encourage children to be kind, polite, sensible, safe and tidy. Establish good relationships with children, parents and carers, make sure that they valued and respected, and treat them all equally and fairly.
Good humour and positive activity in schools are essential. Children won’t access the curriculum, however brilliant they are, unless they are happy. Happy and confident to ask questions, happy to engage, and happy to make mistakes. To achieve this, senior leaders must foster a learning environment where everyone has a voice, and children are encouraged to engage in the co-construction of learning and establishment of the values which define the school community. Above all, children need to know that they will be listened to.
Happiness is the foundation on which to build exemplary behavior and academic excellence, aims which the majority of schools aspire to. Some might argue that happiness and well-being are a fundamental requirement in a school’s educational provision. Indeed, I have never met a member of a senior leadership team in education, who did not place excellence and exemplary behavior on their priority list.
Happiness cannot be achieved in a school environment without also focusing on a critical aspect of the development of young people, well-being. Well-being is defined by the UK Government Office for Science Foresight Report as ‘a dynamic state, in which the individual is able to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others, and contribute to their community. It is enhanced when an individual is able to fulfil their personal and social goals and achieve a sense of purpose in their society.’
There is a growing body of scientific evidence on the factors around happiness and well-being, which can then be applied in work with individuals and institutions. Having a better understanding of how to increase the likelihood of happiness with life, and how to channel the emotional pains of road blocks and failure en route, are the sort of skills that can substantially improve an individual’s progress. Today’s generation of young people have emerged as a generation with a fear of failure, yet failure can help to define success. To make my point, think about how many failures Thomas Edison experienced before the light bulb was invented? If Edison had been afraid of failure, how different would the world look today?
Previous research has shown that becoming involved in challenging and absorbing activities is important to people’s ability to cope better with life. Yet, in order to develop the confidence to tackle these challenges children must first feel safe, secure and happy in their learning environment, with people they respect and trust. The most successful and widely acclaimed independent schools in the world are now focusing on an ‘all-round’ education, which offer to their students a wide range of such activities, and develop in children the skills required to grow from the learners of today, to the leaders of tomorrow.
One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is the opportunity to get a quality education. The process of selecting a school can be a complicated and even stressful process for parents. Today, parents in Dubai are afforded by a wide choice of schools, each offering a different education philosophy and learning approach for their school community. Here in Dubai, there are traditional schools vs schools which approach learning from a modern, 21st century perspective, schools offering different curriculum including, British, American, Australian and Canadian, and schools which focus purely on academics vs schools who value an ‘all-round’ education. The choice is seemingly endless, and it must be said that all parents want something different for their children. There is no ‘one size fits all’ model in education. Yet, when parents are asked what they want for their children, they usually answer that they want their children to be happy. Why, then, is happiness rarely mentioned as a goal of education?
All schools strive for excellence in education, yet in these days of educational choice schools also strive to be different. Most parents want to send their child to the best school available but it’s important to choose a school that’s the right fit for your child and for you as a parent. As a Headteacher, I am frequently asked by parents the question as to why my school is the right school for their child. The honest answer is that, I cannot tell them if my school is right for them. Parents know their child best. I can only tell parents about the values and educational philosophy of my school and convey to parents what I am passionate about in education. Parents must give themselves the chance to work out what they want. Visit schools, ask questions. Visit more schools and ask more questions, in order to shape your understanding of what is important in schools and the education delivered, the skill set parents wish for their child to develop, the child’s needs, their learning preferences and as well as their capacities to work well in the different settings. Above all, find the school where the child will be happy.
Happiness counts. It matters in education. A happy child is a child that is confident. A confident child is a child that learns. A child that learns is a child who readily progresses and develops a ‘give it a go attitude’, and equips themselves with the skill-set to reach their potential and grow from a learner of today to the leader of tomorrow.
You can find out more about Melissa here.
The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate independent legal advice.
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