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Will the Dawn of a ‘Happiness Enlightenment’ Increase Positive Education in Schools?

Will the Dawn of a ‘Happiness Enlightenment’ Increase Positive Education in Schools?

At the end of this week in Dallas, TX, the very first Festival of Positive Education will be held by the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) to bring educators and thought leaders together to discuss the importance of focusing on positive education.

On July 18, individuals from all over the education community will get together to discuss how students can be educated for the “tests of life, not just a life of tests" through positive education.

For three days, participants will have access to workshops, panel discussions, poster projects and more experiences that will teach them how student well-being can be emphasized in public and private education.

The festival is even offering certain university students graduate course credits for attending and educators the opportunity to use attendance as credit hours for Continuing Professional Education.

So what exactly is positive education and why should future and current teachers know about it?

According to IPEN, positive education is focusing on both academics and student character development and well-being in schools. Examples of positive education that you’ve probably heard of include mindfulness and character education, to name just a couple.

Experts that are pushing for more emphasis on positive education in schools on a global scale say that we are in a period of “happiness enlightenment.” Many governments around the world, they say, are becoming more understanding that policy should reflect promoting the happiness and well-being of individuals to best build a successful society. 

Recent research has found outstanding benefits from curriculum that integrates promoting student well-being in addition to traditional academic learning goals.

The Telegraph recently brought attention to a study from Alejandro Adler, a “well-being scientist” who works at the University of Pennsylvania.

After testing more than 8,000 students from 18 schools in either a placebo curriculum or a happiness one, Adler and his team found that when students are educated in subjects like empathy, they are significantly more likely to achieve higher test scores. 

As an educator, you’re likely familiar with the growing trend of mindfulness classes in schools.

In May, ASCD Smartbrief member and veteran educator Patrick Delaney shared with ASCD how mindfulness has benefited not only his students--but himself, as well.

After channeling his own stress and anxiety in a positive way, he decided to do research and see how he could best help his students in a similar fashion.

These days, he’s in the process of starting a mindfulness club and works with school athletic teams to help them achieve their best seasons ever.

"The players took mindfulness and made it part of their everyday lives. They believed and trusted in the process and had their best season ever making it to the state championship final four tournament,” Delaney said of his success.

Another veteran educator, Deb Austin Brown, wrote an opinion piece in the Charleston Gazette-Mail last month about how America’s public schools desperately need better character education. Our school system, she said, should be focusing on the ‘9 Cs’ to train an efficient and most importantly healthy workforce.

The 9 Cs include critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, common respect, core integrity, civic responsibility, character and the common good.

Brown encourages her fellow peers to use summer months and free time to look into how character education can be implemented best in the classroom.

Even if you’re not sold on the benefits of positive education on improving student achievement, it could be in your best interest to try it out.

A recent study found that student stress and teacher burnout are correlated. In other words, the more stressed out a classroom’s students are, the more likely that classroom's teacher is to feel burnt out. This might seem like common knowledge, but saying it reinforces the belief that healthy teachers and students means more productivity in a classroom.

Check out our resources on mindfulness, character education and reducing student stress here:

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