Guest article by
(The views expressed are those of the author and not TTUTA)
PEACE AND productivity in societies would be more assured when a great, powerful institution such as a school takes on promoting learners’ developmental needs and includes joyful learning as a way of life.
After over 20 years of interacting with school staff, students, their parents and caregivers, and some incarcerated youth in TT and Jamaica, I know, and many studies show, that youths do well physically, socially, emotionally and academically in schools when their learning environments promote good social and emotional experiences for students, their families and school staff.
I have also promoted joyful learning and joyful learners as the way to have many more learners succeed at their endeavours and behaviours. In order to produce joyful learners, we must be equipped with knowledge about youths’ biological, social, emotional and spiritual development, and use this knowledge to create environments at learning institutions to meet human developmental needs.
The way we do schooling, therefore, has to improve greatly and joyful learning should be a new way of life. Experts in neuropsychology and on children’s, teens and early adulthood development agree that these age groups learn mostly through their feelings. Older adults also know that they themselves thrive in good social and emotional working conditions.
Schools being considered as joyful learning environments would also greatly impact teachers positively, encouraging the retention of their expertise in our schools, and, of course, parents and guardians would be overjoyed to see their children happy and successful.
Schooling that recognises and prioritises human developmental needs can positively impact family development and lessen occurrences of youths’ illnesses, school failure and deviant behaviours. The woes that children, teens and young emerging adults are facing – fear of learning and burnout to achieve top grades – would also be reduced.
Studies in the US on New Jersey Morris County and California’s CORE waiver districts have creatively used the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) policy section on non-academic measures to include school staff and students’ training in social emotional learning.
Stakeholders in education hail the successes that have been gained with the new practices of these school environments. They saw the lessening of bullying and rising of academic grades when the school community focused on creating caring school climates for all stakeholders with everyone being actively involved (Marsh, Bush-Mecenas & Hough, 2017; Warner & Heindel, 2017).
How could we in Caribbean territories like TT where I reside and Jamaica (my homeland) work harder at having our educational policies and practices be more in sync with children’s and older youth’s development to ensure their happiness and success?
What role can our school system play in being the new leaders on respecting and protecting our young citizens’ holistic health (mental, physical and spiritual)? Can we position ourselves to be of greater benefit to all our stakeholders?
The time is now and urgent that:
• Caribbean policymakers in education slot valuable time to facilitate interactive sessions with school staff, parents, students and other stakeholders on understanding how brain, learning, emotions and age-appropriate practices influence people’s excitement for learning and healthy feelings of self.
• We desist from the early and all-too-easy pronouncement of learners as being academically challenged, dunce, lazy, not educable or not trying hard enough, until the school/home gathers knowledge on the sensitive periods of children’s and teens’ brain development and its impact upon learning and growth, including gender difference,
• We engage in getting feedback from school staff, students and their families’ feelings about their interactions in their schools.
• The Caribbean school system be willing to see itself as needing to have open dialogue with the society on areas of school change to benefit all its citizens.
• Our Caribbean school system be poised to become the improved role model on positive youth development to the rest of societal practices to help our youth.
In addition to using social emotional learning, Caribbean schooling and schools around the world need to work at knowing more about the biological developmental needs of students, thus creating school climates that foster joyful learning as way of life. This ensures the peace and productivity for which we yearn.
Camile Swapp, MSc psychology: Concentration, child and adolescent development