Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Happiness Factor

There are many theories about the best ways to teach and how learning takes place. There are literally hundreds of books and thousands of articles on the topic.  But, I would put my money on one consistent finding. Students who feel safe and happy, and enjoy where they are, they tend to behave well and learn.

While the overall climate of a school is critically important, the key to any school is what happens each and every day in the classroom between the teacher and his or her students. It doesn't matter where the class is located, what the subject is, whether it's low tech or high tech, large or small. What matters most is the teacher's attitude about teaching and the students. If there is an overall positive atmosphere, a feeling of being known and valued along with a feeling of success, students can and will actively engage in learning.

Simply handing out rewards to make students feel happy isn't what I'm taking about here. To be happy at school, students need to feel that they are undertaking work that is of value to them. This is different from happiness that comes from a teachers' approval or doing what is expected. Even elementary students understand the difference between a reward or recognition for doing what is expected and for success in doing their work.

Middle school students and teenagers in high school gain their happiness the same way. Knowing that they are valued and respected for something that they have attained brings true satisfaction and happiness to them. And, I've found that secondary students like a good joke generated by the teachers every now and then.

Walking around school and seeing smiling and laughing students always brings a smile to my face, because I know that this is a place of happiness and that happiness leads to successful learning.

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