Come on, let's get happy. Maybe not

16th February 2007 at 00:00
It's pronounced a breathy, drawn out Hhhha-os, and it's about time it was used in every school. Hhaos... How happy are our staff. It should feature regularly in all school meetings and, if the quality indicator falls beneath a certain level, action should be taken fast.

A happy staff means happy pupils which, in turn, means a happy school. In a happy school, windows wouldn't be smashed and pupils would work harder.

But how can you quantify happiness? Mundane things like how long it takes to fix the staffroom urn? How often a burst of laughter echoes round the staffroom? The response to yet another please take?

Maybe the answer is a suggestion box in every school. Comments could be anonymous but, whether a name is added or not, the responses should be flagged up every Friday in the morning interval, while teachers either eat cream buns or sip a glass of sherry.

When an old-timer retired recently, he said in his farewell speech: "Let the kids win sometimes." I remember thinking that they won just a tad too often for my liking. But I've thought about it since then, and reckon maybe the staff should be allowed to win occasionally, too, if there is an issue they are all angry about.

Basically, it all comes down to open communication - and feeling valued and cherished by the high heidyins as well as liking each other.

Long ago, I heard a teacher say to a pupil: "I'm not paid to be liked, I'm paid to make sure you learn." But she was well loved. And she was happy.

And she was a good teacher.

The hardest school I ever worked in had a strongly united, happy staff. It was almost a "them against us" mentality. There was laughter and tears in the staffroom, allowable because there was trust.

So I wouldn't know where to start in devising a Hhaos questionnaire, but I'm sure we could manage it between us. It would cut the bill for supply staff too - because happy teachers who are not stressed don't get ill. In fact, maybe the most obvious quality indicator is the level of staff absenteeism.

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands... Why is it so quiet?

Penny Ward teaches at Carnoustie High

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