Parents and teachers understandably believe that children’s happiness and achievement
are both equally very important. Mr. Tim Conroy-Stocker, Secondary Special Educational Needs (SEN) Advisor shared his thoughts.
As an associate fellow of both the British and Hong Kong Psychological societies, with over 20 years’ experience working in education, Tim advises on student and family wellbeing, supporting teachers and students across a large educational foundation.
Tim has confirmed his participation as a speaker at Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference (AISC), which will be held this December 9-10 at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
AISC : How do you advise teachers and parents to strike a balance between wellbeing and achievement?
Tim : “So what do you most want for your children in their lives?” When I run training sessions with teachers and parents I always start with this question. I’m always surprised that in Hong Kong you might expect the answers to be:
“Achievement,” “Thinking skills,” “Success,” “Conformity,” “Literacy,” “Math,” “Mandarin skills,” “Work,” “Test taking skills,” “Discipline,”
But in fact teachers and parents universally give responses such as:
“Happiness,” “Confidence,” “Contentment,” “Fulfillment,” “Balance,” “Good stuff,” “Kindness,” “Health,” “Satisfaction,” “Love,” “Being civilized,” “Meaning,” “Wellbeing.”
One international primary school in Hong Kong collated staff responses and created a Wordle to highlight the responses and remind staff what they were aiming for. Martin Seligman, one of the founding fathers of positive psychology carried out research using the same question, and found that parents universally responded in the same way. It was the happiness of their children that was the primary concern rather than achievement.
Of course the reality is that achievement and academic success are also important in parent’s minds, but the research shows that in order for children to maximise their achievement they need to have skills that support wellbeing. Durlak et al. (2011) looked at the results of 207 programmes that supported the development of social and emotional learning (SEL) in the United States. The study found that children involved in the programmes had a 25% improvement in their social and emotional skills, a 10% decrease in anxiety and depression, but also an 11% improvement in achievement tests.
Other similar studies link measures of subjective wellbeing, self-esteem, resilience and happiness with higher levels of achievement and life satisfaction. Attainment and wellbeing, it seems, are not an ‘either/or’ but are intrinsically linked through reciprocal causality.
Tim : The presentation will focus on how approaches such as Character strengths, positive psychology and mindfulness can be used to support teacher and student wellbeing in the very small chunks of time available in a busy school day. Drawing on evidence and practice, this experiential session will leave participants with a variety of techniques they will be able to use straight away at home or in the classroom.
Read the next article: Strategies for supporting students’ wellbeing and achievement