Saturday, April 29, 2017

Happy Children

There's a great sense of joy when you stand amongst a group of happy, playful children. This is one big advantage of my job--daily I hear the laughter, happy talk, and spirited play of young children as they navigate the school halls, hang up their backpacks, ask questions, run and chase each other on the playground, make wood forts and structures, climb on the equipment, and play sports games.

Yes, at times, there are tears, frustration, and arguments, but part of the job is helping students to learn how to navigate conflict with questions and comments like these:
  • What happened?
  • How can I help?
  • Let's hear both sides?
  • Here's a suggestion about how you can deal with a situation like this in the future?
As I think of this joy this morning, I'm wondering about how we can make classrooms happy for every child.. These are a few elements that matter.

Cozy, Comfortable Home-Away-From-Home Classroom
Generally a few comfortable chairs, rolling tables and carts, rugs, inspiring signage, and a welcoming pace will invite students into the room making it a comfortable, welcoming place to be.

Meaningful and Inviting Learning Activities
It's important that the learning activities are accessible and meaningful to children. With mandatory content, you can find ways to match it to students' interests, and then you can choose other content and learning from students' questions and interest areas.

Co-Construction of the Curriculum
Work with students to determine the curriculum program and timeline. Even with a standards-based curriculum, there's room for children's choice and voice. For example, when teaching a particular concept, you can simply say to students this is the concept, and this is why we are learning it--how do you think you will learn this best? Students typically understand well how they learn.

Reasonable Pacing and Time to Play
It's integral that children have sufficient time to play and that curriculum pacing is not too stressful. There's a balance here, however, because when you focus the curriculum with a good pace the learning stays steady with a good level of challenge.

Basic Needs
In order for children to be happy, they need the supplies and materials that make the school program accessible to them. For example, if everyone is playing in the snow and a child doesn't have snow pants, that denies the child that wonderful experience. Or if the homework and website is online, and the child doesn't have a computer, that too denies the child an experience that most students are taking part in. Further, students without snacks, supplies, proper nutrition, health care, adequate rest or other needed attributes or materials needed to access the curriculum with strength will also have trouble reaching happiness since they don't have what they need to learn well. 

Inviting Curriculum Program
As much as possible, the curriculum program should be intriguing, challenging, interesting, inviting, and transformative. Educators need to work together to create programs that excite, engage, and empower students.

When children are happy, teaching is joyful and the children learn a lot more. We need to work together to make sure that the children in our schools are happy, and the elements above include some of the efforts we can employ to make that happen.