Several years ago when I was working on my Principal Qualifications, I remarked to my instructor that I thought it was very important that teachers in the building were happy. She took me to task on that remark. She said, “It is not your job to keep them happy”. I have enormous respect for my instructor and I have learned a great deal from her, back then and ever since, but those words have never sat well with me.
This morning I was listening to an interview with Australian Education Leader, Jenny Lewis http://www.educationimpact.net/fellows/jenny-lewis,-australia. Her concern for making learning the absolute focus of the school, and to ensure that everyone in the building was there to learn, resonated with me. Her mantra was to do whatever needed to be done to make learning the number one priority in the building. With this, comes the need for everyone in the community to want to be there. It is as important for teachers to want to be in school as it is for students to want to be in school. Happiness IS important, because if people in the building are unhappy, they look for ways to avoid being there.
I remember, as well, when I have been very unhappy in my role as a teacher. During the Harris years in Ontario, teachers were viciously attacked in the media (http://www.queensu.ca/politics/politicalads/ontario/edreform2.mov). To this day I cannot understand why a society would attack the most important profession for its very future. Hargreaves and Fullan state this very nicely in Professional Capital:
If the norm is to build capacity and learning for all, supporting teachers in their learning is a priority. I know that as a teacher, I was “happy” when my ideas were listened to, respected and challenged. I was happy when I was going to work knowing that I could talk with other educators about what was working and what wasn’t, when I felt that my learning needs were respected, and when we were moving forward as a group to enhance the learning environment in the school. This kind of happiness is infectious. Teachers feel that they are valued.
The effectiveness of a school is its capacity to grow everybody in the community. I love one of Jenny’s lines, “People wanted to be there, and kids can smell that”.
If as leaders, we can work to create an environment that fosters learning for all and where people want to be because that is where they are happy, then only good things can come from that.