Are Our Kids Happy?
February 22, 2019
“One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood.”
There are so many clear differences between what my childhood looked like and that of my own children. I think most would agree that today’s young people are quite different than the children of say three decades ago. I remember gently knocking on the front door of my friend’s house down the block at 9:00 AM on a Saturday morning. That was as early as my parents would let me out of the house, to which I returned to only for lunch and dinner. The rest of the day was spent playing with friends, riding bicycles, and making up games. On a good day, we could gather enough of the neighborhood kids for a full game of kickball, baseball, or football. Everyone was included, everyone was picked, and everyone played. We made our own rules, monitored our own behavior, and quickly found out what was okay and what was not okay.
Things look a lot different now. I look at my six kids, and the children I come into contact with at our schools, and often come back to the same question… “Are Our Students Happy?” Sure, times have changed… some for the better, some for the worse, but are these young people happy? They certainly have more technology, access to more information at a much quicker rate, and more media exposure, but also more stress, anxiety, and depression. So how do we come along side our young people and help them find a little balance between the joy of childhood and the rapid pace and the wider scope of the world around us?
Intentionality comes to mind. So does role modeling what we expect. Having students see adults behaving the way they are told to behave helps that adult gain instant credibility. When my teenagers see me reading a book… and then I tell them that reading is important, that it unlocks the knowledge of others, they tend to believe me. If they never saw me pick up a book in my life, the words I share with them about the importance of reading become hollow. The same holds true for eating a healthy diet, exercising, my use of social media, how I respond to others, treating people with respect, being kind, working hard, giving back to my community and more. If the children we are serving fall short of our expectations, a good place to begin would be to examine our own behaviors and then consistently model what we’d like to see in them.
I do firmly believe that happiness is a choice. It’s not that everything is always going to go smoothly or exactly how we would like it to go; but having the perspective of gratitude and humbleness as we approach situations will most definitely help with the overall outlook. In the end, priorities from parents to children remain unchanged. I would offer that we want our students to be safe, healthy, grow exponentially throughout their life… and find happiness.
As we approach our work in District 142, we don’t want students to like school, we want them to LOVE school. By putting the right people in the right places within the district, we hope that these encounters and the learning that takes place brings an unparalleled sense of happiness to every student who walks through our doors.