Happiness and School Culture
When reading here about classroom/school culture, many issues come to mind. As a classroom teacher and parent educator, there are many areas in which I can strengthen the climate for students and parents. The biggest challenge I have in influencing culture is in educating parents about the importance of allowing their children to make mistakes and to grow in developmentally appropriate ways.
In recent times there has been a lot written about how many parents are over-involved in their children’s lives. There is the term ‘helicopter parent’ and now the ‘lawnmower parent’. The helicopter parent hovers, the lawnmower parent mows down any challenges in the way of their child. I have definitely witnessed this phenomenon with some of my parents recently.
During spring conferences, I had a parent list all of the challenges her child was facing in 1st grade. Many of them were typical issues faced by children at this developmental stage. For every challenge she perceived, she wanted reassurance that we as a school were doing everything possible to help her child ‘through’ it. She stated: “I want him to be super happy all of the time”. It may seem like a reasonable wish for your child to be happy. But if we dig deeper into this ‘wish’, we see that it is unrealistic. There will always be challenges, always some conflict between people and in the work we face at school or in life. By attempting to hover or mow down anything in a child’s way to happiness, it is nearly impossible to experience happiness. Even the notion of ‘happiness’ is nebulous.
Instead, don’t we find happiness, or wholeness, by allowing all experiences into our lives and living them? We will meet adversity, we will feel challenged and often we will experience sadness, frustration, and uncertainty. But by acknowledging what we are experiencing, allowing it and working through it, we see that every feeling, every situation is temporary. And we often experience a feeling of success when we face a challenge and realize we DO survive. So often in these times, parents rescue their children and rob them of the opportunity to complete the process of problem solving. Love doesn’t not mean the absence of disappointment or adversity. It can difficult to see your child suffer and struggle. But where did we get the idea that anyone can go through life without facing all aspects of the human experience?