Get Happier School and Get Happier School Project, USA
Integration of Glasser Quality Schools, Social/ Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, and Literacy
By Nancy D. Herrick, M.Ed.
To stay abreast of the ever-increasing theories of behavior and self-regulation, new creative programs are being created to support the development of Glasser Quality Schools. The criteria of a Glasser school has not changed over the last 25 years, and yet, the interest in Glasser Quality School concepts has taken a back seat to short-term remedies. New initiatives and curriculum enhancements have gained the focus of administrators looking for a quick-fix. Reward/punishment options such as Positive Behavior Intervention Support and anti-violence programs are gaining interest. Schools are inundated with new programs to try to address behavioral issues. District administrators are seeking programs they hope will provide increased academic achievement while decreasing the attrition of student interest, respect and attendance. Increased security, technology, reward/punishment systems, character education, special education policies and civil rights laws have been adopted in educational systems around the globe. Most of these programs are additions to the already complex and extended curricula that educators are expected to teach, differentiated to every learner so that no student is left behind. The administrative goal is often short-sighted: to eliminate discipline problems or assure students passing standardized tests. Numerous requirements are heaped upon the classroom teacher, and often inadequate professional support is provided to implement these. In spite of these efforts to improve achievement and discipline, the personal mental health of our children is suffering, standardized test scores tend to be declining and teacher frustration and burn-out is increasing.
Dr. William Glasser created and explained a process in 1985 called “Schools without Failure”. His vision was to create schools where staff and students perceived the environment as a safe, trusting place where there was joy in learning. Research provided by others, (Caine &Caine, Hunter, Gardner, Kohn, Senge) began to provide new knowledge as to how the brain learns, and what changes might be necessary to create the optimal environment for learning to take place. Educators who used this research began to look for new methods of instruction and strategies of engagement. Even with significant changes in delivery of curriculum, the outcome of problem-free educational environments still alluded educators.
Continued research added new horizons to the restructuring efforts. Daniel Pink, Daniel Goleman, Dan Siegel, Bruce Lipton, and Louis Cozolino began to shed more light on what needed to change for the schools to provide learning-friendly environments. All of this research was helpful, but for the classroom teacher who was faced with 30 different faces every day (and even five times daily in secondary school schedules), the amount of time they could allocate to surveying research was limited. Effort was certainly focused on the individual daily situations they faced and addressing the symptoms of student disengagement and uncooperative behaviors. The hidden conditions that inhibited learning were often imperceptible. As Steven Covey taught, teachers and schools were attempting to fix the problem issues without changing their paradigm of operation. Accountability loomed as a threat to teachers and their jobs. With the expectations of traditional grading and testing and being over-burdened with responsibilities, teachers feared the issues were too steeped in tradition to allow changes. The thought of spending time to change their paradigm or eliminate traditional methodologies seemed inconceivable. Quick-fix, minimal tweaks and beliefs that their established methods of teaching should still be effective, held teachers in old paradigms.
The new paradigm of quality education, the concept that William Glasser outlined in his Glasser Quality School model, explained the underlying psychological premise of what needs to change to increase the learning in our educational system. In a Glasser Quality School all students can succeed. The GQS model was readily accepted, but elusive because it required a complete change in the psychological paradigm that most educators had ingrained in their methods over the past several decades. Schools seeking the Glasser Quality School model found that many difficulties arose. It was not easy to attain due to the mandates of their districts and the continuing use of external control which administrators and staff often found difficult to give up. Interested educators learned the concept and attempted to model it in their classrooms. However, the pressures and complexities of external control often over-road their efforts. State and federal rules and regulations made it very difficult to create the climate and belief system necessary to sustain the GQS environment. Districts were reluctant to sink funds into long-term staff development when a new, less expensive “innovation of the month” was right around the corner. Educational leaders who had not taken the time to integrate internal control psychology into their own lives, may not have experienced the difference it makes, and therefore may not have recognized the advantages of the paradigm shift. Choice theory-based schools do require a commitment to the psychological change process which is not a quick-fix solution, but the long-lasting increased quality of life of all who apply it, is well worth the commitment.
To insure the success of our educational systems to reach and facilitate learning for every student, it has been well documented that organizational change, paradigm shifts to intrinsic motivation, self-evaluation and collaborative leadership are indicated. Programs that integrate all of the mental health and proven brain-based learning strategies are needed in effective learning environments. All fear-of-failure and coercive methods will require replacement with research-based needs-satisfying strategies for achievement. If schools want to be successful at consistently increasing the mental health and well-being of their students, they will need to provide the safety for students and staff to become self-aware, self-evaluative, self-managed and community-minded. We need responsible self-regulated learners who are able to understand the complexity of the world around them and still keep themselves balanced, respecting their own learning needs and the needs of others. Programs that focus on problems, punishment, fear and threats will not achieve the environment where students learn to take effective control of their lives. Programs that add more layers to the curriculum, take time away from the academics in order to focus on the problems of bullying, cheating, dis-interest, boredom, attendance, and disrespect only cloud the horizon. We claim we are powerless over changes in the system and over academic failure, when the exact opposite is true in both cases.
Dr. William Glasser acquired his vision for the Glasser Quality School through his work with delinquent students by observing their transformation. Now it is our job to share this vision by supporting its integration and development within our educational systems. Glasser defined the criteria needed for quality work, but he did not claim to give us the specific method to achieve it. Educators are still seeking answers, solutions and implementation strategies to travel the road to the Glasser Quality School model. We know the key to personal happiness and success is internal motivation and self-control. A few schools around the world have achieved this monumental, developmental change. They have become Glasser Quality Schools. Through our research and development over the last two decades we now can provide need-satisfying, achievable procedures that educators can easily learn to put into place. What these Glasser Quality Schools have discovered is now available so that the road to a quality education, better mental health and increased joy in learning are no longer out of our reach.
Thanks to a group of passionate educators and psychologists, a new curriculum has been developed and piloted in Australia and the south pacific rim countries. It is now available in the USA and North America to enhance (and jump-start) the Glasser Quality School development over the next decade. Ivan, Ann, and Rebecca Honey, Sylvia Habel, Jacqui Lynch, Nancy Herrick and other Glasser-trained educators have created a dynamic, colorful, fun-filled curriculum that can be disseminated across the elementary school K-6 grade levels without taking time away from the academic structure leading to the expected progressive achievement for all students. No longer will parents and educators have to worry about end-of-grade or standardized test scores. Student interest, respect for themselves and others, and cooperative learning will become the norm. Incorporating the paradigm shift needed along with many of the 21st century discoveries about internal motivation, self-challenge, growth mindsets, strength-based learning, social /emotional balance and effective beliefs about mental wellness, The Get Happier School Project, USA curriculum is now available. It has been designed with developmentally appropriate, self-reflection (mindfulness), and effective decision-making strategies facilitated through kinesthetic and literacy activities for elementary children ages four through twelve.
Choice Theory, Dr. William Glasser’s internal motivational theory of behavior is the basis of this new program, The Get Happier School Project. Dr. Glasser believed the quality of ones’ mental health is dependent upon one’s level of happiness. He defined happiness as the ability to make effective choices so that one can attain the knowledge, respect, joy and satisfying relationships they seek. Integrating The Get Happier School Project curriculum into the regular academic curriculum, will provide the information and learning strategies children and adults need to be able to self-assess the effectiveness of their choices. This curriculum presents the personal reflection activities that lead the teacher, student and parent to change their paradigm of thinking. It helps them to experience joy in learning. It emphasizes the advantage of building good relationships with those around them, and learning how to make more effective choices so they can retain balance, acquire resilience, and strength of character.
The teacher of this new program, The Get Happier School Project, is Doug Dragster, a personified Australian dragster car who learns how to make better choices, sustain good relationships, and become aware and considerate (mindful) of himself and those around him. Doug’s adventure story becomes the teacher. Students, teachers, staff (and even parents) learn the secrets to happiness as Doug discovers how to become a high-performance car. Doug’s friends and family share a tool box of life skills that help Doug learn to choose effective behaviors. As he gets his life on the “open roads” of success, he learns to adjust his engine, find the power to persevere, and become aware of “dead-end” roads. Comprehensive, developmentally appropriate lesson plans, detailed enough to provide self-directed experiential learning, offer the children numerous activities to become aware of their behavior and how it affects others. Students will develop a growth mindset, and discover their strengths as they support each other’s learning.
Ivan Honey, the originator of the story (and curriculum), says, “We expect children to play the game of life without providing them the rules.” The Get Happier School Project, helps children discover the rules of the road to happiness as they construct the framework for understanding themselves and developing a mentally healthy lifestyle. This amazing curriculum offers educators a comprehensive suite of resources to enhance their leadership in the classroom. When we empower a classroom teacher or a parent to discover the joy in learning and teaching, we are building a stronger, happier community. Internal control psychology (Choice Theory), mental awareness, focus and presence (mindfulness), effective teaching and learning strategies (literacy) and emotional balance and control (Emotional Intelligence) are all inter-related in The Get Happier School Project, USA.
If you are a parent or an educator, we invite you to look over The Get Happier School Project. Talk to others who are now applying these concepts in their lives and see if you think it would be a benefit for your district’s schools. You can find the overview, materials, and program design on the website: gethappier.net
As difficult as it has been to provide the paradigm shift of the mental model of our schools so they are able to create real learning institutions for our next generation, this program will make the journey more accessible. The schools who have embraced it and begun to transform their instructional system using the Choice Theory concepts and 21st century educational research and re-structuring will find that all students will succeed in competent and even “Quality” learning levels. As they learn to take control of their choices to get happier, they will become proficient, contributing community leaders of the future.
Begin now to facilitate the change we need in education. Whether you live in North America or other parts of the world, do you believe that education is the cornerstone of success for the citizens of the future? If so, take a few minutes to see if this project could help educators and adults seeking to help young people live more mentally healthy lives. If you knew there was a formula or simple secret to happiness, would you want to know what it was? This could be the beginning of your own journey to happiness and fulfilled dreams.