Simple question and you will know the answer immediately, it’s a yes or no. It is easy to suggest certain parts of the school are happy or this department does really well, but a happy constructive positive learning environment isn’t one department it is every aspect of the school and is created by the teachers, all school staff and the pupils within it.
It is a big question with a binary answer, but takes time and space to create and maintain a truly happy working environment.
The “happiness indicator” starts to flicker at the school gates, you get a feeling for a school very quickly, what was the welcome like at reception? How were you received on your arrival as a supply teacher; how are the children received; do they “skip” into school with enthusiasm looking forward to another wonderful learning day?
I’m not talking about primary schools I’m referring to any school or academy and in fact any business too.
If the establishment you spend half your waking time in isn’t a happy environment then the plain fact is that you nor your pupils will be performing at best; it is that simple.
Building a positive happy environment
Most teachers are stressed with constant pressure and massive demands on their time and an unrelenting obligation to “perform”. Many teachers feel undervalued and are basically not happy at work so how can they perform well if they feel unhappy and stressed. The Guardian Teacher Network, found that from over 4,000 respondents just 37% said they were happy at work.
It is well known that children learn far better through play and when they are happy engaged interested, motivated opposed to fearful and suppressed. So how can the leaders in schools acquire and maintain a happy state which transfers to all pupils and emanates throughout the establishment?
It’s difficult, especially in an environment where everybody is expected to perform to an external regimes partially subjective opinion.
Happiness, motivation, positivity, creativity and respect for all comes from the leadership, not just the head but everybody in the school and all the time.
Taking time to reflect on the “happiness scale” in the schools you visit is really powerful, it can also be very instructive for the school. Having an external supply teacher or teaching assistant simply giving feedback on the feel of the school, the enthusiasm of the pupils, the reception received, how the children are treated is really helpful.
Some schools will simply not be interested in this feedback and you may be taken to task, but your constructive feedback will be received very well by a school that “gets it” and knows how important a positive environment is. They will want to know how things can be improved and will be proud of their school and the progress it makes.
Feeding back on a “happiness scale” to a school certainly isn’t typically something a supply teacher would do, but why not? All teachers are professionals why can’t the truth be spoken – it might not be a great message to hear, however, as a supply teacher you have the benefit of being able to compare one school with many others. Comparison of schools as a supply teacher is very valuable, few teacher have the benefit of working in multiple schools during an academic year. The suggestions you make as a professional delivered in a constructive manner, perhaps simply referring to what another local school does well in creating and maintain a happy environment will only help.
There are more freedoms for schools and academies with plenty of scope for change but most have so much to do on a day-to-day basis there is little time to step back and reflect.
Creating a happy work environment in which the teachers and children are proud and feel part of takes time and is about people and relationships between those people. Getting the mix right takes time too and inevitably the mix of people is constantly shifting. Getting “happiness” in to the schools’ DNA isn’t overnight, it is achieved by small incremental steps following a clear objective that is set out by the leadership team. Celebrating the successes on this roadmap towards the common object in creating a happy working environment where all the teachers, staff and pupils want to spend half their waking time seems like a worthy objective.
Creating this movement requires reflection by the school and can be supported by input from external visitors and in particular supply teachers who are a great asset for many school to simply ask a few questions: How does this school compare with other schools you visit? What do you think we could improve?
Everybody wins by creating a happy constructive positive working environment in which all staff and pupils are proud and want to be part of, so why not ask the question of your colleagues and visitors to your school.