In Search of Happiness – Written by Sarah Hudson
In this current educational climate it is all too easy to either feel somewhat overloaded by new initiatives or slightly cynical that we have heard it all before. Well-being and happiness are two such topics currently attracting a lot of media attention. We cannot fail to be alarmed when we hear that English children are currently ranked 14th out of 15 countries for life satisfaction or that mental health services are at critical level. It has never been clearer that the happiness and well being of a child now needs to be valued as much as academic achievement and attainment. It was therefore, incredibly refreshing to attend a seminar this week on happiness in the workplace and to come away completely re-invigorated and uplifted. Baroness Floella Benjamin and Shonette Bason Wood were the guest speakers and not only did they remind us of the sheer joy of teaching, which is the reason why we joined the profession but also of the very real responsibility that every teacher and parent has as “guardians of the future” to our children.
Floella Benjamin has long been an icon of mine and yes, for those who can remember back that far, she did start her speech with “Hello I am Floella and today we will be looking through the round window!” Those very words, soothing, calming and safe, instantly transported a roomful of delegates back to their own childhood. Her message was simple, firstly that we should try to ensure that childhood lasts forever and that also that we should teach our children to see education as a passport for life. Above all else we were reminded that children in our care need to know that they are loved unconditionally, listened to and that their opinions and thoughts really matter. Powerful words indeed and yet it is these very sentiments that underpin all our work and thinking within the Pre- Prep.
As parents and teachers we want nothing more than our children to be happy and yet how do we make this happen and where is it going so wrong? It was so refreshing as practitioners to once more be given ‘Permission to Educate’ in creative and exciting ways. (Please do feel free to ask Mrs Collinge or myself for a bit of magic wand therapy or how to help the ‘lemon suckers’ and ‘mood hoovers’ in your life!) As educators it is vital that we continue to think positively and teach our pupils to enjoy each moment and we need to find ways to make every day matter not only for our pupils but also for ourselves. As parents and teachers we need to approach each new day with the same level of awe and excitement as our very youngest pupils. It is our responsibility to continue to nurture this natural optimism and positivity and to enthuse and energize our pupils throughout their entire schooling.
The message from the conference was loud and clear that it is vital, as adults that we learn to put aside our own stresses, worries and anxieties and to once again have fun with our children. How we feel and act has a direct impact on our children and choosing to be happy and positive in our outlook is crucial to their well-being. To inspire others we need to be inspiring and so we all have a duty to bring excitement and optimism to each and every day. Whilst there are all kinds of ways to measure the effectiveness of teachers for me, an outstanding teacher is quite simply the one who knows how to have fun and who can still see the world from a childlike perspective. It is these very special qualities, which enable a teacher to genuinely connect with their pupils and show true empathy and understanding of their needs.
For our own sense of well-being we are all becoming so much more aware of the need to learn how to be mindful of our own day and to be able to reflect upon the positive things that have happened. We all need to try to find contentment in the little things around us that so often we take for granted. This is a skill we actively need to teach ourselves as well as our pupils.
Research shows that happiness and positivity does help to build successful learners but perhaps more importantly happiness spreads quickly. Andy Cope, the ‘Doctor of Happiness’ and author of “the Art of Being Brilliant” suggests “if you are really happy and positive then, every single person you meet during that day is going to be a minimum of 16% happier.” This is such an important lesson that I hope that each and every one of us will learn in the Pre-Prep and also that happiness really is only ever one thought away.
Written by: Sarah Hudson, Head of Pre-Prep