“It’s not what you have, who you are, where you are, or what you do that makes you happy or not. It’s what you think.”
International Happiness Day is celebrated around the world every year on March 20. It was originally founded in 2006 by Jayme Illien, CEO of the United Nations project, an organization that has hailed happiness as a fundamental goal to be pursued by all people.
Being happy requires the fulfillment of many aspects of daily life. One of these is education. A child or pedagogical staff spends about 7 hours a day in school. So we can say that the impact is relatively high.
When some of us think back to our school days, a smile immediately spreads across our face as we remember friendships, funny teachers and fun lessons. For others, the memory of school is one they’d rather forget.
Aiming to promote happiness, well-being and overall development in schools, UNESCO in Bangkok has launched the “Happy School” project. Focused on essential concepts – People, Process, Place – this project involves building positive relationships between teachers and students; promoting fun and engaging in learning and creating a school environment without bullying. It offers a different vision for the quality of education, in which the talents, strengths and unique abilities of students are assessed, recognized and celebrated.
The evidence is clear that when teachers and students enjoy school, everyone does better. Happier children learn better and healthier and happier teachers appear to teach better. In fact, numerous studies show that when staff are happy at work they’re more productive, more creative, have less time off sick, are better at their jobs, and have happier customers. So, it makes complete sense to want to make schools a happy place to teach and learn. With that in mind, below are five factors that are key to building a happy school.
Happy schools make connections between colleagues, students, and parents and see this as an absolute necessity. The happiest schools are the ones that make everyone feel like they belong to a community where they are welcome, safe and where they can be themselves. Creating connections is also important for the Center for School Leadership, where one of the standards of the School Principal is “School management in partnership with parents and the wider community.” School principals create positive home-school relationships in order to provide parents and the wider school community with the opportunity to contribute to the continuity of improvements in student performance in both short-term and long-term periods.
Justice and equality
Treating others with justice and respect is the foundation for a happier school. This has to do with rules and expectations, with rewards and sanctions, which are clear, fair and not very punitive. Justice also has to do with realistic expectations for people.
Schools that trust their teachers, giving them the autonomy to complete their work, often have the happiest staff. When teachers are able to use their strengths to do a good job, they can often exceed expectations. But remember, this is not just about teachers. Students should be trusted to use their judgment, take responsibility and show what they are capable of doing.
When we do work that we believe is really worthwhile, it can motivate us in difficult times. The happiest schools often have a clear purpose and vision – the teaching staff knows why they show up to work every day and the students know what to do. When everyone has a common goal, even seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be overcome. Thus, school principals work in collaboration with teachers to create a common vision for school development, based on strategic priorities.
The happiness expert, Prof. Richard Layard, says that “A society cannot flourish without a clear concept of common purpose.”
The fact that the Albanian education system has long had an authoritarian Eastern spirit can make it difficult to create a happy school environment. But even the Albanian school is taking steps to get as close as possible to contemporary teaching. Creating a “happy school” is a process that requires the participation of all actors in the education system. But school principals necessarily have a key role to play, creating space to meet the conditions that make the school an environment that generates positivity, cooperation, fairness and has a clear vision of development.
The Center for School Leadership with the aim of increasing the number of “Happy Schools” in Albania, has drafted the Standards of the School Principal, which have been approved in Order No. 477 (30. 09.2019) of the Ministry of Education and Sports.