BARBARA ROWLEY, New York Times, September 6, 2012
"From their perspective, the worst thing that happens to my two daughters at the conclusion of each summer is that they have to leave their friends and their joyous days of exploration at their mountain summer camp and come home. The next worst thing that happens to them is that they have to immediately start an experience — school — that feels almost exactly the opposite. The onset of camp-sickness is immediate.
"Happiness is embedded in the summer camp business plan, and is central to what they do. If children aren’t happy; they won’t come back. Many camps report annual return rates of 75 percent or more. Not every child is happy at camp, and it goes without saying that not every child’s family can afford camp, or wants to send them. But schools could learn a lot about student retention and achievement by taking a page from the summer camp happiness playbook.
"This is especially true right now. Driven by a culture, which, rightly or wrongly, too often fails to recognize teachers with respect and economic rewards, teacher unhappiness seems more prevalent than ever. Yet in all the talk about education reform, happiness rarely seems to make the list, even though there’s plenty of evidence out there about what an improved school environment might mean for learning and test scores, not to mention student attitudes and drop-out rates.
"Put simply, nobody likes working for an unhappy boss. Schools can’t be enjoyable for kids if teachers aren’t happy. For schools to be more like camp — to be more fun — our education establishment has to put emphasis on hiring positive-minded staff and preaching the importance of exuding happiness in the classroom as well as making the necessary changes in the work environment that will make their happiness genuine.
"I realize that fun may sound like a frivolous goal in the face of the education crisis we face in our public schools, and happiness an extra we can’t afford given our middling rankings among global competitors. But as I grudgingly send my girls back to school this week, I can’t help wishing — just as they do — that school would learn just a little from summer."