Happiness in the classroom
Delhi government’s ruling to introduce a Happiness curriculum augurs well for a healthy, prosperous, and optimistic nation
The Delhi government's recent addition of introducing Happiness in the Classroom could not have come at a better time. The number of suicide cases headlining newspapers today reflects on the alarming mental health of modern-day society.
Can teachers maintain happiness in the classroom? What does the Indian system of pedagogy tell us about happiness in the classroom? Perhaps the greatest lessons are to be found in Mahabharat itself from the relationship of Arjuna and Dronacharya. Fast forward to the modern millennium. Mike Ferry, a long-time middle-school teacher, father of four and author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation, maintains that we can. Research has shown that happiness brings success — happier people are more likely to be successful at school, work, and in their personal lives. Ferry defines happiness as "an optimistic, communal, and disciplined perspective on life."
Education requires research and it would be a good idea for the Education Ministry to delve into present-day classrooms and see what teachers do to create the ambient of happiness. Tripti Pradeep, a teacher in a KG classroom, is one such teacher. Her five-year-olds walk into her classroom happy to begin the day with her. A number of her students remember her long after they have left her classroom. Tripti says: "I spend all my time with my sweethearts, I dance with them, I talk to them, I spend every single moment doing small things that make them happy and comfortable. I keep doing things that create positive strokes for them. Everything is about "We Can". One of Tripti's students says: "Everything she did was in a fun way, she never shouted or scolded anyone in her class, she used to call us lovingly, she would say Rohan baby or Dominic baby or Tejas baby. I loved going to school every day, I loved my classroom."
Lily Dessa, who teaches Class 1, believes that when we create a positive mindset, children respond with trust and the success factor follows. "I enter the classroom with a smile, I look at their faces and know instantly who needs a pat or a smile or a hug. I try to overlook mistakes and highlight what is correct; I spend a lot of time listening to them because I believe that it is important to let my students know that I am there for them through success and failure. I use the words "doesn't matter" all the time, it's like a balm for them." Lily is also known at her school for the classroom ambience she creates – her class reflects joy and creativity at its finest.
Scholars in education say "our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient and productive at work." Happy classrooms inspire creative minds. This means happiness is crucial for learning and critical thinking. Lily inspires creativity by embracing humour, curiosity and open-mindedness in her classroom.
Principal Heemal Handoo Bhatt of Hansraj Model School, Punjabi Bagh, believes that happiness has a magic formula! "Teachers have to be caring, nurturing and supportive. A caring teacher is the best facility a school can offer," says Handoo, a veteran who keeps her school buzzing with joy. "You need the children to be children and let them work, help, support and encourage each other to ensure they have as varied a learning experience as is possible," adds Handoo, who has been a brilliant English teacher herself.
Classrooms and education need to work on happiness as a social movement and the Delhi Education Minister has taken the right step in this direction. Happiness in the classroom can proactively increase happiness and well-being.
Research on classroom happiness quotients says that at the top of the spectrum is the creation of positive emotions. Teachers have to express gratitude all the time so that students emulate. They have to keep an eye on good happenings and magnify them and improve positive/negative ratios.
Teachers have to progressively find ways to encourage engagement at all levels. They must create flowing groups, apply signature strengths, practice mindfulness and create an atmosphere of positive experiences that can be savoured. Students must always take home great memories that are constructive in dimension.
Teachers must be catalysts for creating great relationships that consist of kind acts, sharing and deeper conversations that develop both sympathy and empathy as well as create examples of forgiveness and patterns of compassion.
A short one-minute prayer helps calm the mindset, becomes a tool for a beginning and aids memory. A teacher can cultivate a growth mindset and develop a classroom that is built on optimism and happy explanations and examples of love and generosity.
Happy teachers make happy classrooms
But happiness cannot happen if teachers are not happy. The Delhi government must explore schools that do not pay teachers the salaries that have been introduced by the government rulings. There are many established private schools that do not pay requisite salaries and make teachers sign the dotted line but pay them a far lesser emolument. There are some that discriminate and pay teachers according to the results they bring in at the Senior Board examination levels. Sometimes, great students may not get the desired result because of the luck factor.
Happiness and a sense of purpose go hand in hand. The Delhi government can also make use of retired school teachers who have a brilliant track record to share experiences and conduct workshops. While we can learn from spiritual gurus – the classroom needs examples of pragmatism and real-life instances because ultimately what matters is the human connection. Technology cannot make up for an inspiring and motivated teacher who can be the pulse of her classroom. It is not smart boards that can create ripples of happiness; it is a caring and loving teacher who touches the lives of 50 robust children and who can spread sunshine as the essential ingredient of happiness.
(The author was HOD, English at Don Bosco School, Alaknanda, Delhi. The views are strictly personal)