Happiness and Engagement

Trevor Ragan’s blog, The Three Types of Happiness, introduced me to Tony Hsieh’s  book,  Delivering Happiness .  Hsieh describes happiness with respect to pleasure, passion, and purpose:

Pleasure (“Rock Star Happiness”)

Attending an amazing concert, enjoying a fun night out, or eating at your favorite restaurant – this type of happiness is ok (often times great) but is also short-lived. You might experience a spike of happiness but after the concert, party, or meal you’re right back where you started.

Passion (“Flow & Engagement”)

A project for work, a blog post, your first V-Essay – this is the type of happiness that you feel when you work really, really hard on something you care about, and finish it. This is more intense and longer lasting than rock star happiness.

 Purpose (“Feeling Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself”)

Feeling like you’re an important part of a great team, company, group or mission – this is the type of happiness you feel when you truly understand the why behind what you do. You feel needed, appreciated, and that the work you’re doing has a sense of purpose. This is the strongest level of happiness and also the longest lasting.

Ragan provides a great graphic  from Delivering Happiness, (take a look) that plots pleasure, passion, and purpose on an x/y axis showing the degree of  “how great it feels” with “how long the feeling last.”

As I read through the happiness blog I was struck by the alignment with classroom engagement. In an earlier blog,  I wrote about the connections of play and work to learning and posted a video from Monument High School in Massachusetts. Their independent project option for students is built around three components:

First: On Mondays, students come up with questions that pique their interest in relation to school subjects. They spend the rest of the week researching and coming up with potential conclusions to these inquiries. On Fridays, they present this information to their fellow classmates.

This seems to me to connect with pleasure. Answering a question that YOU want an answer to brings a satisfaction. The opportunity to share that interest with an audience creates another pleasurable time. Interesting that each Monday they select a new question to reconnect to a pleasure opportunity.

Second: Students work on individual endeavors. This is a semester long project that needs to fit these criteria; it has to demonstrate effort, learning, and a mastery of skills. Examples included learning to play a musical instrument, writing a book, researching some topic at a deep level.

As I listened to students on the video  describe their individual endeavors I heard a connection to passion. The students describe wanting to put lots of hours into their endeavors.  “A day where I write for an hour is a bad day… five or six hours is a good day.” “My individual endeavor has been a blast.”

Third: The last three weeks of the semester students engage in a collective endeavor. The goal is to collaboratively produce a social impact and make a difference. Purpose

It strikes me that happiness might be an interesting place for teachers to begin their planning process. How can I create a classroom or course that has opportunities for students to experience pleasure, passion, and purpose? It seems to me that autonomy and empowerment of the learner are critical elements.

How about happiness for teachers? School leaders should consider how the design of teaching teams can create a unit similar to the students at Monument High School, where there are opportunities for teachers’ learning that finds answers to questions that the teachers own (pleasure). How do teachers receive professional development, coaching, and feedback focused on effort and learning leading to mastery (passion)? Are PLC’s created so that teachers collaboratively find purpose in making a difference?

Wishing you happiness!

 

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