How to Teach Happiness

When I was in biology class my sophomore year of high school, my teacher, Mr. Haggard, said something that really stuck with me.  Of course I do not remember the exact words (it was a morning class and I am definitely NOT a morning person), but the essential message was, “I am not going to teach you how to be perfect students who become perfect employees.  Instead, I am going to teach you how to be healthy, happy, safe, and successful youths who become healthy, happy, safe, and successful adults.”


According to the mindset discussed in Logan LaPlante’s Tedx Talk, far too often, and often to the detriment of the student’s learning, school teaches one “how to make a living” rather than “how to make a life”.  Through the lens of such a mindset, being that perfect student and employee would “naturally” lead to the aforementioned health, happiness, safety, and success, but is it true happiness?  According to the CDC, in 2005-2006 4.3% of kids 12 to 17 years of age suffered from depression which rose to 4.7% in people 18 to 39 years of age and then jumped even more to 7.3% in adults 40 to 59 years of age.  Clearly, teaching people how to make a living is not working.

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From what I have heard from friends, relatives, and even complete strangers, they end up “settling” into a job that can provide them with money, maybe a dental or vision plan, and a pension.  The question is why?  Why settle?  As far as I can tell, people settle because they believe that they have to grind through life until reaching retirement and then, and only then, can they actually be happy, follow their passions, and live.  However, by this point those dreams have often withered and died.  With that being said, it is quite clear that making a living is not true happiness, so why do we continue to do it?  We do it because we are taught that this is the status quo.  Who teaches this?  Schools.


Schools pile on homework and meaningless tasks rather than authentic learning opportunities.  Because our society is built upon treating humans like tools and teaches use that the only things worth valuing are the ones that have a demonstrable benefit to the people in charge.  That is why government lackeys care more about test scores than they do the rates of depression and anxiety in students, and thusly they care more about delineating the useful from the extraneous rather than nurturing passion and creativity.  At the end of the day, the current system cares more about money than people.

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That is why I believe the system needs to be revamped.  We as educators need to revitalize creativity and learning because students are people first, last, and always.  It should not be so that parents are forced to remove their children from school in order to ensure that they get the best opportunities.  We as teachers, as administrators, as schools, should be providing those opportunities because that is our purpose.  I for one am not going into teaching because I want to create submissive slaves to the ruling class who are unable to see any future than living and dying by the dollar.  Instead, I want to contribute to learning and experiences that make students happy, healthy, safe, and successful no matter what that means for them.

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11 thoughts on “How to Teach Happiness

  1. I really enjoyed reading your this blog. I couldn’t agree with you more on the fact that our school system’s need revamped. I also agree with your statement about how ultimately the system cares about money more then people. Working in a school I see this all the time. Students need certain services, etc. and don’t get it because of money. In fact schools have been cutting paras due to the budget. When paras can really be used if trained correctly and the students can benefit from extra help in the classroom. I also agree with you is that the system doesn’t think about depression or anxiety instead the press down on testing. Which of course gives most children more anxiety. I do see teachers that try to go against this and not teach to the test and not pressure the kids to do well on the test. Instead they act like the test isn’t a big deal and teach more important things which is great. They care about their kids more then they care about test scores which I think is great.


    1. I’m from Kansas where the disparity between money and care are huge. Recently, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that this year’s educational budget was unconstitutional because so much money has been siphoned away for everything but education itself.


  2. Love this blog post. Such a great insight at what the common teacher goals should be: to create young happy, healthy, safe, and successful young adults to send out into our societies to prosper. Too often I think that people believe teaching is not an important job, but the truth of the matter is that we hold the future generations in our hands. The future relies on teachers, so we hope in them and trust our kids with them. Thanks for all of your thoughts!


  3. I really like what your high school teacher said. It sounds like he truly appreciated his students and wanted you guys to be successful in the way you want to be. Nowadays high school students are freaking out by senior year because they do not know what to do with there lives and it has been drilled in their head get an education to make a good living but school is not always the route for some kids. Great post!


    1. Many students don’t realize that there are other options such as trade school, apprenticeships, junior college, or even just taking some time off to figure out what you want to do before just throwing yourself into college or wherever.


  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. We’ve lost all sense of balance in school, and I think current education initiatives like the Common Core, which stresses “career- and college-readiness” (even in first grade!), only exacerbate the problem. We do a great disservice to the children we’re supposed to serve when we forget to look at them as whole people whose whole selves can benefit from school and education.


    1. I definitely agree. It is detrimental to children to be forced to think about adulthood when they are nowhere close to being ready. It reminds me of how we are seeing torn ACLs and rotator cuffs in young children because they are being forced to play sports at a level their bodies are not ready for. Somehow, somewhere, we as a society have forgotten to let children be children and it is harming them both physically and mentally.


  5. This is a great post! You are very inspiring and you make true true statements. I thank you for your information and your stats on children and depression, you are right, you can definitely see the correlation between teaching kids to have jobs and teaching kids to have learn, and to put that learning towards something that makes them happy. Oh and your teacher Mr. Haggard, what a smart saying, that is one I will write down and make it something I can stand by.


    1. Thank you! Even as an adult, when I tell people that I want to be a teacher they respond with comments about the bad pay, how my personality isn’t right for the job, how hard it can be, and it always boils down to the same thing. They think I could be more useful in a different job rather than whether or not it would make me happy.


      1. Doesn’t that just push you towards what you want to do!? I get upset with that too, I feel I’m in the right spot and for those who tell me to stick with it appreciate them even more.


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