Connection between happiness and learning

We know that whenever we fight with someone more powerful than us or some time when there is turbulence in the flight, we feel threatened. We go into survival mode when threatened by something or someone. We either put up our dukes (literally or metaphorically) or start running in such situation. Students often go into survival mode when they feel threatened by a confusing text task or an overwhelming cognitive, or when they are called on something for which they don’t know the answer, or are confronted or teased by another student (or a teacher!) is this a ideal environment for students learning?

This is a question which deserves our full consideration.

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As teachers, we also know that when students’ affective filters or defenses are sky high. A room full of defensive behaviors is a sad, unproductive environment to teach and learn.

Now let’s think about opposite scenario and let’s understand how much more we are able to learn when we are in harmony with the people and things in any given educational environment. Being in harmony means feeling valued, feeling safe.
What does research shows about the ideal learning scenario  It shows that when we don’t feel threatened , we have a willingness to be vulnerable, to be open to new ideas and guidance from others/

“Engagement is a state of being willing to take risks, to do difficult things, to think deeply and creatively about issues and develop new solutions. …Interest, happiness, joy, and desire are approach emotions. This state is one of increased dopamine levels, important for curiosity and learning.”

Unfortunately, the hyper focus on standardized testing has gravitated schools far away from whole-child teaching and learning as now a  days school focus is more ever only on academics , in this scenario it’s very important that parents choose right school which talks about overall development of the kid. Less time is spent on social-emotional, behavioral activities that help create and sustain an inviting and engaging classroom environment. And we know that to engage students in deeper learning — those times we really stretch their thinking — there is a certain vulnerability they must surrender to. It’s a magical mix of willingness and curiosity. So how do we get them there?

“There is a large and growing body of research which indicates that people experiencing positive emotions perceive more options when trying to solve problems, solve more non-linear problems that require insight, [and they] collaborate better and generally perform better overall.” By Dr Rock

So before challenging students with those high-level cognitive exams .we need to cultivate a safe learning environment that invites vulnerability and genuine curiosity. Here are a few points for doing that:

Point#1: Be Sure to Community Build All Year Long. Regularly include strategies and activities in your lessons, Activities that allow students to express who they are, their ideas and thoughts, build relationships, and Collaborative practice. This will help grow and maintain a feeling of emotional and intellectual safety in your classroom.

Point #2: Make some Group Guidelines so that everyone can feel involved. We have all felt fear (or some sort of anxiety) when working in a group: Will they like me? Will my contributions be valued? It is very important students have a say when creating the guidelines so they feel connected to and ownership of them. They will also be more on board with adhering to them. “One Speaker at a Time,” “Listen with Your Whole Body” “Respect all Ideas,” are valuable norms when students collaborate. Make suggestions but let them decide on wording for the norms.

Point #3: Have Non-Negotiable. Along with classroom rules and procedures, students must know non-negotiable right out the gate. My biggest non-negotiable: name-calling or teasing. We have to tackle such things as name-calling and teasing head on or else kids won’t feel safe to be themselves, let alone learn.

Point #4: Post Student Work Everywhere. This one is simple and easy. When displays of poems, essays, projects, and exams dominate the walls, there is a sense of belonging for the students in the room. When they look around and see their own writing and thinking, they certainly experience a higher level of comfort than if they see store-bought posters. So if we require any informational posters, ask your students to create them.

Now we’d love to hear from you! How have you developed your classroom to be a safe, an inviting, and productive place to learn?

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