This post has been inspired by an event I attended on Friday by Central South Consortium, it was the launch of PERMA. My interest increased when Dr Rob Kempson discussed positive psychology and the work of Martin Seligman.
Happiness in the classroom is based on a bond of trust between the staff and pupils. It is the ability to understand that you might not always have the answer, you might not always enjoy the subject but if these barriers can be overcome by the positive engagement that has been built then a child will feel I can rather than I won’t. I’m not a psychologist, I’m a teacher and as many of my colleagues will tell you, we have taken on many roles and one of the key roles we have is to provide children with a safe and secure environment within which they can flourish.
What does flourish mean in this context? Academic progress will show if a child is doing well but for me and not through a real definition, flourish implies that a child is willing to have a go, willing to make mistakes and realises that through making mistakes they can learn. This is true of academic progress but it is also true in terms of developing interpersonal skills, learning about themselves and also learning about the importance of well-being.
In a different post, I have discussed my idea regarding how I teach and the importance of a smile. As a leader of a school, children respond to you in accordance to how you respond to them. Respect has to be earned and that has been the key focus of beginning a new role since September. The title Headteacher does not come with any entitlement, you must build relationships and earn the trust of others. One of the most important roles I have is to set the climate in a school and trust, respect and happiness lead to positive emotions that builds positive engagement in the school and classroom.
Breaking this down in simple terms, one of the most important books I have read recently is, ‘The Art of being Brilliant ‘ by Dr Andy Cope. The most important lesson that I took from the book is something that I had always understood but the book gave it meaning. Every decision has a consequence and just by thinking about the direction each decision can lead will allow you to flourish on a personal and professional level. The book provides many scenarios that should be read to really take on board the message. In very simple terms, imagine the choice between turning left meaning a longer drive in distance but less traffic and turning right being a shorter distance but more traffic. Which one would you choose? The choice you make is often dependent on your stae of mind, if you are calm, left is the obvious choice, if you are rushing and full of negative emotions you will choose right and then get annoyed with yourself when you are stuck in traffic. Positive emotions, happiness, allows us to think with greater clarity and the same is true of every child.
In Wales, we have a purpose within the new curriculum that asks for schools to help develop and promote ethically informed citizens. To achieve this, we have to allow the right environment to exist within the classroom and of course, the school.
To provide meaning in a world full of confusion, dischord and anxiety is paramount in supporting pupils on their journey of discovery. What does meaning imply?
For me and in context of the 4 purposes in Wales it is about ethically informed citizens, ambitious and capable learners, enterprising and creative contributors and healthy and confident individuals.
All the above should create a positive experience for a child that should lead to positive engagement built on a relationship of trust and respect (that goes both ways). The path won’t always be perfect, problems will happen, some children will require a more bespoke approach depending on their personal needs but ultimately creating the right climate in the classroom and school will lead to achievement on a personal and academic level.
The quote that I took away from the event,
“Little things can make a BIG difference ”
It is amazing how something so natural as a smile at the gate can change and set the climate for the whole day.