Arm With Happiness~ Leveraging School Happiness Agency

According to the Fall 2017 Student Gallup Poll, 34% of all students feel stuck and 20% feel discouraged relative to Hope (the ideas and energy students have for the future.) That is over 50% of all students feeling less than good about their future - I am not digging those odds!  If we are looking for a true measure to indicate the health of our schools, I think we found it. Yet, nationwide we are divided, fighting over everything we can, modeling anything but healthy, happy living. There is an intense debate on how to de-arm our children, remove their access to guns in the interest of protection;  what children collectively need are strategies, arming them as they face our imperfect world that inevitably presents them with adversity, they need tools that arm them with happiness resilience.  

Let’s dig in deeper into happiness.  “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” – Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics. As parents and educators, if pressed, our deep down desire is that our children will grow-up to be healthy and happy. From a baby’s first smiles and giggles, to when we recognize an activity, career change or promotion, or loving person that makes us feel truly fulfilled and happy- the ability to BE happy greatly shapes how we live our lives. Happiness is literally in our genetic makeup, it is hard wired into us all and is relatively an easy lesson to grow as we develop. Happiness is a hallmark of successful people and thriving companies. Happiness resilience allows for people to overcome adversity and failure.

Happiness can be developed, cultivated and learned the same as reading and writing. In fact, like other skills, it needs to be developed with intentional practice. As educators  we must recognize that the ability to be happy is not fixed. We are not born with a set threshold, or ability to demonstrate happiness. Yet recent violent incidents across the country, the extreme rise in rates of childhood depression, bullying, and suicide as well as the results of the 2017 Student Gallup Poll, makes me wonder what messages we are sending our children about the importance of happiness and how we are cultivating happiness in our schools.

Do schools have the capacity to “arm” students with the ability to choose happiness, to be happy, to be healthy? I KNOW we do and I certainly don’t plan on waiting for more tragedies as indicators to establish an urgency for happiness training, positive well being, call it whatever you want - a complete overhaul, reset to the core purpose and intent of our nation's schools… as Nike says- Just DO IT. At educate4hope we have come to call this School Happiness Agency.

School Happiness Agency

School Happiness Agency (SHA) is the ability to create, influence, encourage and assume responsibility for the actions that will enhance the experience of joy, overall well-being, connectedness, sense that one’s life is good, and meaningfulness. This sense of agency is essential in the development of the school community’s social-emotional capacity to take control, increase motivation and respond to the environment in a healthy, meaningful, happy manner. Our ability to take action is not in the form of control- it is in the creation of the purposeful structures and intentional opportunities that build the culture, skills and tools in creating a mindset where happiness is the ultimate goal for all.

Schools have an ongoing and active role in establishing, as well as continuing to cultivate the level of School Happiness Agency for each community.  SHA can manifest itself in physical environment, value of relationships, meaningful reflections, outcomes and goals, equity and fairness, diversity in activities, opportunities for service and voice.

How can we focus on happiness?

Here are some research linked ways to increase school happiness and arm your staff and students with tools toward being and feeling happier:

In the Classroom

Writing Prompts and scenarios focused on what is right in a particular situation instead of identifying conflicts

Incorporate Mindfulness activities to start a class period or even as a separate strategy

Opportunities for student voice to shape activities and choices: Personalized learning plans for students, student-generated digital citizenship projects

Expectations for Intentional Happiness Journaling/Reflection for Staff and Students to build happiness resilience


Identify, Callout & Celebrate Sportsmanship and Wins: If you give certificates or trophies for Best Athlete, Champions and the like, consider celebrating at the same level students that portray characteristics of Good Sportsmanship, Love of the Game

Create opportunities for staff, students and communities to eat meals together as often as possible: Culinary Foods students cooking meals for the elderly/ shut-ins to eat breakfast and break bread with students. Creating common opportunities for staff and students to share lunch

Model It

Start Meetings with “Focus on What is Right in Our World” and have everyone contribute something that is right or working. Make this a practice before meetings, classes, assemblies

Set and stick to routine of spreading happiness - Identify 3 Staff and 3 Students to shout out during the daily announcements for how they added value to your school happiness culture

A few summers ago, reading Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, was a pivotal moment for me as an educational leader. Instantly, I knew I must do and be better for all of my children. The research rich ideology that building a culture of happiness can perpetuate nothing but positive results was overwhelming, yet natural. The more I looked, the more research I found that supported the positive effects of a happiness framework. Research more than suggests that reducing anxiety and depression, developing positive self perceptions, setting constructive goals, building skills to manage emotions and cope with adversity and even academic performance can all be affected positively with a focus on happiness. How can we afford to not lead with happiness in our schools?


Join educate4hope in our pursuit for all schools across the country to implement the tenants of School Happiness Agency!  We want to hear from you, please share your stories and practices of how you build happiness resilience in your school community.

#ed4happyschools  TwitterChat Friday March 30th @ 5:30AM EST  (grab your coffee, tea or favorite early AM beverage and join us!)

Reflections of a Missing "Bit"

Reflections of a Missing "Bit"

Adjusting our tie, or combing a rogue hair that we see out of place while we look in the mirror is an innate reflexive behavior. Reflection enables improvement.  View this week's VLOG and hear how installing an air desk lead to reflections in leadership and classroom practice.

The Pope As Building Principal?

by: Sherry and Kristina Macbury We were tickled to read a recent article written by William Vanderbloemen on the 5 Leadership Lessons From Pope Francis.


What can you learn and reflect on from Pope Francis' Transformational Leadership Style as an educational leader?

  1. Be Accessible

The Pope emulates this as evidenced by his actions taken on his first day – he switched up tradition and invited people to bless HIM as opposed to the long practice of blessing the people. Later, he made the choice to ride in a bus as opposed to a bulletproof limousine – he can even been seen riding around touring the U.S. in a Fiat.


And we see this being applicable to your schools and building leadership in two main ways: Customer service and Engaging ALL of your constituents.


Nothing replaces good customer service in a school than when your community can see that you can take care of the "little" things like answering and returning calls and emails, personalizing experiences for staff and students, and handling a busy main office with smiles and knowledge, it gives them the confidence that you can "handle" the big things like respecting and inspiring staff and students and for families, the education of their loved ones in a safe and inclusive environment.


How are you emulating being accessible to your “customers” in the principalship?


  1. Don't Ignore Social Media

Did you know the Pope has 7.3 million English account followers on Twitter?


Social media is a great way to leverage relationships and engage our families and communicate. Remember the most important information families want to hear about is their children, not about what you are doing for their school.


The main take away from this message is to exercise humility and inclusiveness via social media, just as the Pope does with his tweets.


  1. Flatten Your Organization

One of the first orders of business for the Pope after evaluating his organizational structure was to change his own title. He changed it from “Supreme Pontiff” to the “Bishop of Rome”. Again, he switched up tradition and rearranged his team, to be less hierarchical in nature.


Does your leadership team and building know your vision? Do they know their roles as it relates to the implementation of your school plan? Have you designed your leadership team and responsibilities in a way that allows you to remain the visionary and chief monitor of your vision – and ultimately built upon SUSTAINABILITY? If not, you need to consider stepping back and taking the time to make sure efforts are all going toward common goals and are vision and mission aligned. Otherwise, you likely will not reach your goals for your school and most importantly, your students.


  1. Take Risks

This one, for us at educate4hope, really resonated. You see, Pope Francis, has taken some BIG risks early met with controversy but, without sacrificing his faith in the Catholic Doctrine. From reaching out to atheists and agnostics, to embracing and engaging women who have had abortions, the Pope’s leadership in the area of taking risks is grounded in inclusiveness. How many people might say, before Pope Francis, that they have felt shut out?


So, as an educational leader – what risks do you or have you taken to be inclusive of ALL staff, students and community?


  1. Value Input From Subordinates

Pope Francis has impacted his reach and influence by valuing all people. What does that look like in his world? Well, he switched up tradition again as he washed the feet of prisoners, women and Muslims as opposed to the tradition of only priests. He also transformed the Synod of Bishops into a decision-making body as opposed to a ceremonial body.


As you know, every human being in your building is value added. It is your job to embrace, engage and leverage everyone's worth and authentically value it. Many may say we have lost our way as educational leaders in valuing input from our constituents. Don’t fall victim to this practice!



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What is Educate4Hope

Educate4hope was founded by our fundamental desire and beliefs that effective leadership coaching is the singular most effective strategy that positively influences and supports efforts of building and sustaining a legacy of academic achievement and positive school culture. The reality is, in many of our nation's school districts, eaders are not supported and professionally developed in a manner that leverages skills sets nor is it done in a collaborative, trusting fashion. Whether it is a capacity, skill set, political, or resource issue - it just doesn't happen in some systems. As a result, our systems, schools and students continue to be impacted by losing potentially GREAT people and leaders. We understand Urban Educators better than anyone and consequently, empathize with the sense of urgency in quickly realizing positive, sustainable outcomes and the challenges of working in very complex environments. Fortunately, we have learned from our challenges and been blessed with awesome experiences and professional development and we want to GIVE BACK. Thus, we have a very purposeful and intentional approach to our work and are committed to the following:

Mistakes are not welcomed here!


Today in edutopiaDr. Richard Curwin speaks to the lack of inherent worth we as educators place on mistakes and most importantly the process of remedying mistakes. In his article It’s a Mistake Not to Use Mistakes as Part of the Learning Process, he reflects on how he has learned more from his own mistakes than successes. I whole heartedly agree as personally, not only have I learned more from my own failures (when I have had to pick up the pieces and identify specifically what, when or where I went wrong) but, from others and their behaviors or practices.  As an administrator and coach, I have learned so much from observing poor practices (please do not misunderstand, I see awesome practices as well, often).  Most importantly, I take these learnings, internalize them and share with we can all benefit! We are preparing our students for jobs that have yet to be created, and for careers yet to be imagined. Carol Dweck has long identified the "growth mindset" as one that allows our children to rely on effort and grit, not natural talent for success. Understanding that working hard through the process of learning is more valuable than having the right answers will take us much farther. Our students need to have the confidence to take risks, learn from their mistakes, and not fear failure. The only way to create that mindset is to encourage risks, and a mentality that to fail is the first attempt in learning.