It seems that I’ve been reading a lot about happiness lately and kindness. Maybe I’m always reading about it, but for some reason, it’s jumping out at me lately. I think it’s a lot of things, but one is that my daughter is growing up and becoming her own person–which involves a lot of push and shove (and not always a lot of happiness).
Young kids are happy. I feel so lucky that I work with children. They are bundles of energy and enthusiasm. Even 10- and 11-year-olds, when given the right learning environment, are happy.
Here are some things from today’s Huff Post blog on “18 Things Children Can Teach Us About Happiness”: that I especially like and think are relevant in the classroom:
- Kids live in the moment. In the PYP especially, we are teaching them to reflect all the time, but we can’t forget that moment, the present. This relates to inquiry because sometimes if we don’t slow down and appreciate the kids’ moment, we won’t get into those inquiries that are so fascinating. Case in point: The other day, my students came back carrying a lizard. Its tail had fallen off, and they were watching the tail squirm in the dirt. We were late for class, but we needed to take that moment and then some later moments to do some inquiry on why tails keep moving even after the lizard drops it. It was important. It was in the moment.
- They make stuff. Kids need to get hands-on a lot. Balance their time on computers with hands-on dirty stuff. In Mathematics, they need to play with manipulatives, even in grade 5. They need to build things and try things. Using the DIY site as our home learning this year has given kids a chance to make things, and they’ve been making model catapults, baked goods and now duct tape shoes. They love it.
- They say what they mean. As they get older, they definitely stop doing this, and I recognize this in my own daughter, who is now in grade 6. Still, in the beginning of grade 5, they say what they mean. Take it in and go with it. We need to always to remember to practice active listening because kids are telling us something.
- They get excited. We go to the park every week for some extra PE time. I leave it up to the kids what we do, and they’ve decided their current game is Capture the Flag. They are so excited. They run around like crazy. They’re caught in the moment (see first bullet point) and they’re happy. I feel like my students have a nice, free environment because they’re excited a lot. They get excited when they can spend an hour on a Math problem (no kidding). When they’re engaged, they don’t want to go home or go out to breaks. It’s great, and all students should have that excitement.
- They accept compliments. Compliment them often. Having grown up in a family that didn’t give many compliments, I need to remind myself of this. Of course, this isn’t the general “Oh, you’re so good” compliment, but the specific, targeted compliment like: “The way you solved that problem shows some real step-by-step thinking.” These type of compliments give kids a lot of confidence.
- They engage. Give students the right learning environment and they engage. Keep your classroom teacher-centered, and no, they won’t engage as much. Hand it over to the kids, and they will engage. Keep things focused conceptually, instead of on raw facts, and yes, they will engage. Students need to make connections in their learning, and they will engage. Real-life stuff helps as well. I think back fondly on last year class’ activism about PET water bottles. They were engaged…and engaged on the real-life problem over 6 months. See post.
- They march to the beat of their own drum. Differentiation. One-size prescription does not work. Absolutely. Proven again and again. In a recent personal inquiry about conflict, I had students who wanted to explore why brother and sisters had more conflict, and other students who wanted to explore why a dictator-led government had more conflict. Different drummers, absolutely. I can’t imagine a classroom without personal inquiry and a one-size fits all approach.
- They sing. Ok, they don’t sing all the time in class, but I think back on one student who while working on his personal Exhibition project turned on Stevie Wonder and just sung his heart out. The other day, while riding to work, I was behind a Japanese businessman, dressed in a typical black suit, who was peddling along quickly. Behind him, in the kids’ bicycle seat, was a toddler, his son, I’m assuming. The kid was singing his heart out in Japanese and waving his arms and kicking his legs. He was in another world and just wanted to sing. It made me smile.
Just some reminders about kids and happiness and feeling lucky I’m in the profession I’m in.
Melanie Woodland Senior School Coordinator Mt Eliza North Primary School 9787 6611
What a great message to start the week. Thank you.