3Ps of happy schools – people, processes and practices
A happy school concentrates on 3Ps – people, processes and the practices. Schools should foster positive and friendly interactions between children and adults in school. The adult processes that are used as positive attributes like being ethical, kind, fair and enthusiastic help children in gaining good role models very early in life and that surely transforms them into happy children and finally the genuine educational practices followed in school also help to a very large extent.
Children spend a lot of time at schools and it is imperative that they are nurtured in a happy environment. How can school achieve that, shares Deepa Sridhar of Sri Kumaran Children’s Home.
Q: India is presently slated to be in 122 position in the Happiness Index among countries all over the world. It is also seen that many countries who are not as rich as India in resources, economic stability and cultural diversity are better placed than India. Education, it is claimed, can play a big role in transforming this situation. What role do you think schools can play to improve the Happiness Index of the future citizens?
Deepa: School is the place where the children come in as early as three year olds and we play an important role to create a positive atmosphere for children to thrive and grow. This should help children grow in a non-threatening environment where opportunities are given for them to learn. Tragically, in this world of helping children to gain lucrative careers we have created a testing culture where we as educators are expected to shift our expectations and children are forced to face cut throat competition in trying to make it to the best colleges in the country and the world and this has marred the happiness of the children to a very large extent. Learning is no longer fun or interesting for a child but has surely become a chore.
Thus it is important for schools to make children understand that education is not just passing an exam with a high score. Schools should create learning spaces for children and make it more experiential, insightful, enjoyable and create a sense of wonder in children which will enthuse them to learn. We need to invest in the social and emotional needs of these children instead of making them master these academic requirements and standards set forth by our education system.
In order to turn around our schools as happy schools, we have to concentrate on the people, processes and the practices of the school. Schools should foster positive and friendly interactions between children and adults in school. The adult processes that are used as positive attributes like being ethical, kind, fair and enthusiastic help children in gaining good role models very early in life and that surely transforms them into happy children and finally the genuine educational practices followed in school also help to a very large extent.
Q: Among various parameters used for measuring the Happiness Index, psychological well being of people is considered a prime factor. The schools play a significant role in developing right attitudes, perspectives and emotional stability among the growing children. What curricular and other steps should be taken to empower the young children with a sense of psychological well being?
Deepa: Following steps should be taken by the school:
- Schools have the responsibility to create a right school environment which is enjoyable and non-threatening. Teachers and adults can create a happy and reliable atmosphere in schools which will in turn make children happy. Positive interactions with peers and adults make happy children. Furthermore, we have high expectations of all children in our classroom without discrimination. Feeling valued and well-treated is also an impetus for children to develop confidence and succeed, given the right support system in the school.
- We as a school should have a zero tolerance for any child-protection related issues, including bullying and violence/abuse in any form. We should also try to provide adequate support to teachers to ensure that they have a workload that is realistic and conducive to learning that is enjoyable and engaging.
- We should also have well-defined values and expectations of students and other stakeholders. Whilst it is often displayed on the walls, we also make it a point to talk about what it means – in school assemblies, how school staff can model these positive behaviors and expectations, and incorporate them into their daily routines.
- Sensorial and hands on activities are important to create happy children. Activities like gardening, sculpting and pottery help children work with hands and this is indeed a great stress buster for children.
- Create time for children to spend time with Nature. Nature helps children to give and if the reverence for Nature is built in children, it will help in their psychological well-being. Nature is a big teacher for it can surely help children to understand that life is not a race and everyone thrives if nurtured well.
- Children need to be taught to introspect and reflect and this is surely a wonderful tool to maintain one’s balance in life. Children should be trained to set realistic goals and the use of tools of self-assessment should be taught to them. This will surely help in understanding their own strengths and weaknesses and do not need an external perspective for the same.
- Schools can empower children with a sense of wellbeing when they develop respect and empathy for others. We have several opportunities in school where children are given several opportunities to reflect on their roles as active members of a community or responsible citizens. For example, there are many instances for them to ‘give back to the community.’
- Schools can teach children to understand their own emotions. It is important for children to understand what and how they feel in a given situation and should be able to communicate or articulate the same.
- Schools and parents will go a long way to help a child when they develop a sense of autonomy in each child while dealing with the day to day activities. This surely promotes self-sufficiency. It is also very important for a child to be confident of himself / herself.
Q: Assessing the use and management of time is a key concern in assessment of HI. How could schools help in developing these attitudes so that the concept of productivity becomes a second nature among the children?
Deepa: I feel if children and adults in school enjoy what they are doing, it surely will increase their productivity and they in turn give their best. Children have to be taught the skill of planning their work and not all children catch this skill on their own. Thus schools have to devote time to teach children the use of daily planners which includes study and non-study activities and this will help children understand the management of time and avoid procrastination. Organizational skills to ensure work completion have to be taught to all children and as schools we cannot assume that children will learn it along their way. Teachers while teaching their academic subjects have to devote time to help children by being a role model to foster organizing and prioritizing skills and teaching these strategies to children as a regular feature in our teaching – learning processes.
If each teacher plays a buddy to a few children in his or her school life, it will go a long way in helping children develop positive attitudes towards life. It will also help them reflect on what they are doing right and wrong and most importantly provide them a sense of confidence. This will help children realize their true potential and in turn helping them increase their own productivity and not the productivity or talent perceived or envisaged by an adult who could be a teacher/ parent/ brother or sister.
Q: Cultural diversity and resilience is a positive index of a happy community of people. Given that India has a strong cultural diversity and a history of meaningful and positive cohabitation, how could these ideas be promoted in the school environment?
Deepa: I think as schools and as a larger society, we have to celebrate the strong cultural diversity that we have in our country. Parents and schools in the beginning have to work in tandem to help children realize that adaptation to the cultural diversity of our country is very important. Teachers have a big role to play in tailoring classroom delivery towards diverse cultural appreciation, especially in ensuring that the learning environment is culturally responsive and devoid of any stereotypes or biases.
Thus at the onset, we as schools have to respect cultural diversity and admit children of various languages, socio-economic backgrounds. In the growing phases, children have to experience their own classrooms being a miniature society to promote meaningful cooperation. Religious and spiritual beliefs, ethnicities, appearances, value systems, diet, food habits and clothing of these diverse groups may be different but the children must learn to understand and appreciate the same.
Celebration of festivals should be made alive with storytelling sessions and special assemblies. Inviting local artistes may also help in understanding the diversity of our country, rural and urban differences. Co-habitation will be understood and practiced by children when they understand the oneness in spite of the cultural and geographical differences and this in turn makes children more sensitive, resilient and adaptable. When they grow up they also continue to appreciate the cultural differences.
Q: Do you think the National Curriculum Framework and the pedagogical strategies adopted by the schools should integrate the concept of Happiness in a more focused manner with well-defined inputs?
Deepa: Yes, it is imperative that we focus on happiness with meaningful inputs that make the education fraternity and young minds to dwell deeper into the ‘self’, redefine the meaning of success and to be independently happy, at all times. Apart from facilitating differential learning experience for children with different learning skills, textual learning should be replaced with self-discovery learning, giving a lot of room for creativity.
A self-motivated student-focused professional with school leadership experience for almost 27 years, Deepa Sridhar is currently managing academic and administrative functions of Sri Kumaran Children’s Home – CBSE, a private school in Bengaluru where 150+ teachers are currently providing transformative education to over 3000 children. She manages high level school management functions of Kumaran Group of Educational Institutions. Detail-oriented and organised individual, she exemplifies professionalism, and an ability to provide simultaneous and systematic attention to multiple, concurrent issues. She has also demonstrated evidence of successful school administration, while ensuring effective instruction delivery to a diverse student body.