9th October 2020
When I ask prospective parents what they are looking for from a BJAB education for their child, the number one response is “I just want them to be happy.” In which case, are we teaching happiness? Is it even a subject? The answer is a firm “yes,” because in my experience, I know that a happy child is a more effective and successful learner. Going further, I believe that learning happiness has a longer lasting impact than many other subjects we teach.
Most education systems across the world put high value and reward on the achievement of exam results, so we naturally spend a large proportion of our time and effort giving young people the knowledge and skills to sit and pass exams successfully. These achievements enable our children to enter reputable universities and embark on fulfilling careers. Those of us who have followed similar routes understand this. But what happens when situations becoming challenging, such as a viral disease pandemic turning the world upside down? How many of us are able to draw on strategies, learned at home or at school, which help us to maintain a positive outlook on life? Unfortunately, not all. It’s a sobering fact that the ”well-being” and “self-help” industry, with its books and courses and social media programmes is cashing in on us who are, in effect, having to re-learn our ability to be happy.
Teaching children how to be happy, or how to create a sense of well-being, does indeed equip them for future life. When I was Head of British Education for a group of schools in Dubai, the UAE government launched an initiative to promote happiness. They even appointed a Minister for Happiness. The cynics had a field day!
Children are very open and honest explainers of their feelings. BJAB’s teachers are expert in picking up on the comments and sentiments from children which trigger how the day is likely to go. One of the reasons why I enjoy greeting pupils in the morning is that I can assess very quickly how they are feeling and whether any extra support is needed. It’s almost a register of happiness. The practical methods of teaching happiness include the integration of happiness as a value for the whole month across the school; the methods I described in the newsletter employed during assemblies; and the sincere celebration and acknowledgement of events at school such as births, birthdays and weddings which are a reminder of our growing and vibrant community.
In the midst of our complicated lives, perhaps sometimes we need to remember our first instinct: ”I just want them to be happy.”