How students can be happy at school

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Will they have a good day...?

For both students and parents, being happy at school is an aspiration that is very close to their respective hearts.

For the parent, it is more about their child's physical and emotional safety with their son or daughter being away from the home environment.

For the student it tends to be more about their social interactions with their peers and the way other students perceive them.

With there being SO many factors involved in students being happy at school it truly is impossible to give a 'one size fits all' answer.

While a parent can reasonably expect their child to be individually cherished and nurtured in the school environment by teachers, administrators and other school personnel, the practical reality is that the student will spend much of his / her time on their own. This is not to imply that they will be isolated and alone but that they will pretty much have to figure out for themselves how to survive in the dynamic environment of a school.

For the past 30+ years I have taught in schools where the student population was around 60 students and in others where there were about 1200 or more. Also, I have taught (Science) in classroom, assumed the role of 'form tutor' acting in a pastoral capacity and in the role of an administrator.

So, I am sharing some general observations of what generally allows students of middle and high school to enjoy their time at school, and also to share those obstacles to that experience.

Succeeding academically is at the root of student satisfaction!


I am speaking generally here, acutely aware as I write this of instances where bullying at school, an abusive homelife or dire financial family needs can catastrophically impact student enjoyment at school!


As boys and girls of school age work their way through the various grades, they all experience tremendous influences of change. These can affirm or negate the intrinsic root of happiness which can be summed up in the phrase:

"I'm Okay"

Without the depth of experience that only life can bring most students have a sense of always wondering if they are indeed 'Okay'?

As adults we may consider the quality of their interpersonal relationships perhaps play too much of a role in our child's happiness. However, unless we 'see their world' through their eyes we may, inadvertently, be a source of negating our child's enjoyment of school.

This failure can also be caused by teachers who do not engage their students with meaningful to them academic work or neglect to show the relevance of their studies apart from simply 'achieving a passing grade.'


A big mistake that is made by many parents I believe is to reinforce the very misguided notion, which is this:

' a student's grade is a direct measure of their self-worth'.


Students will, on a daily basis share their assignment grades among themselves, from which will be derived the notion of who's a "smarty pants" and who's the "thicky." A more wholesome way is to describe a grade as merely a 'signpost' or as it were a 'mile marker' on their journey to achieving a good level of understanding in their work.


A mystery solved!

The 'mystery' that puzzled me for several years as a teacher was finding out that students had indeed done my homework assignments (which I tried to make as interesting to them as possible) and simply did not hand it in! I recall saying to my students "Why oh why did you go to the effort of doing the work but then not hand it in? "

Having talked to many students over the years and listened to all that seems to be expected of them socially, academically and within their homelife I figured it out:

The problem is what I term an STD ... Student is Totally Disorganized!

It still is a challenge even today for many students,

Overcoming an STD problem

In my role as a form tutor, I spoke to my classes about scheduling their time being very realistic amounts of time students should be doing homework. I would break down their time to 30 min slots and schedule in break times. Overall time on average would be about 60 - 90 minutes. Each student would then have an individual homework planner sheet something like this:

I would suggest that they include due dates, and the aim was to remind students not only to get the work done but get organized about it


Effective Revision techniques:

Often revising for a test or an exam conjures up images akin to this:

This is NOT a good method for the majority of students!

Passivity in learning is probably the LEAST effective method, and although a student may laboriously spend hours staring at a printed page there are far more effective techniques.

I have often said to my students, "knowledge and understanding is like mud.... the more you handle it the more it sticks to you!"


To that end I am a powerful advocate of 'mind mapping' where a student, in the privacy of their own room, can 'empty out' his/her understanding of a topic onto a blank sheet of paper, but NOT in a sequential manner, but as thoughts come,

When the there's no more 'inspiration' the student can then, using different colored pens, group likeminded topics together, THEN they should look at the textbook to see what they have missed and add it to their 'mind map.'

Minute for minute this is one of the most effective ways of increasing knowledge.

Make your child YOUR teacher...!



I have mentioned this in a previous post, but it is well worth repeating as it is SO important:

As a parent you have THE one quality which many teachers, with their overcrowded classrooms would love to have!

1:1 time with your child

By casting your child in the role of the 'teacher' and getting them to tell you in detail what they learned today (perhaps while having dinner) that makes them 'revisit' the lesson. This very act of recall engages their understanding -or perhaps their lack of it - of a class lesson. If the latter case you have a 'targeted enquiry' to be raised with their teacher. (See my previous post on 'The Magic Word all Students Should Know'

Your parental interest will, of course, pay huge dividends in undergirding your child's journey through the brief but very formative years of school.

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