Happiness is a real factor when it comes to learning. It’s important to a child’s identity formation and how they relate to their environment (see study below).
But can you teach happiness? There’s a push for social-emotional learning (SEL) which leads some to think that happiness can be taught. But SEL is not what it seems.
Happiness is often dependent on the life a child has at home. But schools can and should foster happiness for children. Children happy at school like to learn.
It’s especially important for poor children, or kids who have problems at home. School might be a refuge—the one place where they find joy.
For years, no one involved in school reform has cared about a child’s happiness. They over-tested students and stripped their schools of art, music, recess, and anything that remotely brought pleasure into a child’s life.
They created “no excuses” charter schools. These schools are found in poor neighborhoods. Can you imagine telling a child who lives in poverty that they have no excuses for having difficulty learning?
The only learning corporate reformers care about is making children fit into their workforce of the future and making a profit on schools.
The Problem with Social-Emotional Learning
Now we are supposed to trust their ideas for social-emotional learning.
SEL is trendy. Teachers in classrooms across the country are quick to address programs to supposedly help children feel good. Teachers often have good ideas on how to make cheerful classrooms, and they care about how children feel. They might think SEL involves their version of helping children to be happy learners.
What’s troubling with SEL is the underlying meaning. The real SEL is more about collecting online data on children, a lot of it creepy, and creating a false sense of caring so children will act better in school.
Collecting lots of online data on a child’s behavior is similar to academic data overload. One can find some good ideas in the midst of SEL activity planning, but mostly SEL makes money for publishers who devise scales and assessments to measure how children act. It is an extension of Common Core State Standards.
Realize too, that there’s much talk about self-regulatory behavior—getting students to be capable of working long periods on their computers without teachers.
That’s not creating schools that help children be happy learners. In general, our schools still pay little attention to real happiness when it comes to children.
Curiosity and Happiness
Children engaged in learning, who feel good about themselves, will seek to learn more. A nurturing school helps create student enthusiasm. No data is needed for this.
Children can’t wait to learn new things, do new things, find out what’s in books and explore their universe! Schools should be an extension of this good kind of curiosity and excitement.
But teachers cannot teach well when they are hamstrung to corporate reform far removed from the kind of curriculum they know is best.
Children unhappy in school won’t learn well.
Ways to Help Children Find Happiness in School
Here is an interesting article shared with me When Teachers are Better at Raising Test Scores Their Students are Less Happy.
Here are ways to help children find happiness in school. I will continue to add to this. There is no special order. Feel free to join in and add to the list.
- Minimal testing.
- Parent involvement.
- Supported teachers.
- Health screenings.
- Being well-fed.
- Smaller class sizes.
- Recognition of strengths.
- Help with difficulties.
- Movies from children’s books.
- Access to many books.
- Being read stories aloud.
- Opportunities to make friends.
- Several recess breaks each day.
- Play kitchens (kindergarten).
- Blocks and building tools.
- Opportunities for play.
- Acting in plays.
- Getting to tell stories.
- Journals for free writing.
- Helpful guidance.
- Time to read and look at books.
- Chances to read independently.
- Kind teachers.
- Audio books (Learning Ally).
- Good school libraries.
- Real librarians.
- A well-resourced classroom.
- Nature walks,
- Simple chores in school.
- A principal who knows your name.
- Gardens to watch things grow.
- Positive parent-teacher relationships.
- A teacher you’re proud of.
- A teacher who gets time to plan.
- A friendly school support staff.
- A trusted counselor.
- Some tech. Some!
- A school nurse.
- A clean safe school building.
- Pretty school grounds.
- A welcoming school.
- Breaks for socializing.
- Exposure to music.
- Lots of art.
- Interesting field trips.
- Support from the community.
- Extracurricular activities.
- Physical Education.
- Career-technical programs (high school).
Here are lovely additions readers provided on Facebook. Thank you to all who contributed. I will continue to add your suggestions. I have not finished. So please be patient.
- Mrs. Puglisi’s 100 National Standards
- creative writing
- a mentor
- science labs
- outdoor schools (part-time)
- good science labs
- camping trips
- community helpers
- middle and high school recess
- coloring (even for older students)
- language translation services
- dual language programs
- language acquisition support
- qualified teachers
- trauma support experts
- before and after school programs
- language classes
- language classes for adults
- food banks.
- health clinics.
- dental care.
- Department of Social and Health Services.
- wraparound services.
- Play Dough.
Chorro, Estefanía Gomis; Fernández, María Ángela Morales; Corbí, Raquel Gilar. “Happiness and Values in the Formation of Personal Identity in Students of the Fifth and Sixth Grade at Primary School.” Universal Journal of Educational Research, v5 n5 p881-890 2017. 10 pp.