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  • Writer's pictureSara Mehkari

Can you teach happiness? Views of a classroom teacher

Sara Mehkari is a doctor-turned-teacher in Bahrain. A passionate believer in the power of putting wellbeing at the heart of the classroom, she is also a huge advocate of Teachappy’s Seeds of Happiness course. We caught up with Sara to understand her story and how our course is helping in her wellbeing mission.

There are 25 children in the classroom sitting in complete silence as the English teacher explains a verse from a poem in a rigorous and stern voice. She asks the class a question, I feel my heart beating faster, I feel I know the answer, but I am scared. I am afraid of being wrong. So, I decide not to raise my hand. That was me 20 years ago. I attended a convent school that had a reputation for rigorously enforcing discipline and prioritizing academic achievements. As a result, I faced confidence issues; I was unable to speak up in class and had a constant fear, fear of being wrong, fear of my friends laughing at me. Moreover, I was frightened of my teachers and unable to find the courage to try new things.

Sara and her girls

By education, I am a doctor and have a few years of practice. I am also a mother to two beautiful girls. Around three years ago, I took the bold decision of leaving a career in medicine and pursuing one in education in the hope of finding more balance in my personal life and professional life. The pivot in careers led me to complete my PGCE from the University of Sunderland, and I have since been teaching at EtonHouse International School, Bahrain. I started with the Nursery class and have moved up every year. Currently, I am teaching Year 1 and 2.

Soon after I took up teaching, COVID-19 hit the world and changed everyday life, especially for the children. Children exhibited higher levels of anxiety, lower self-esteem, and started to show signs of speech and language delays. In aggregate, these factors resulted in lower confidence in the children. Hence, it was no surprise that they seemed scared of trying new things or actively participating in the class, including raising their hands to answer.

Reflecting on my own schooling experience and witnessing the visible impact COVID-19 had on children in my classroom made me question whether perfecting academics was all that mattered. So, I began researching and was immediately drawn towards the concept of wellbeing for children. I was fortunate to come across Adrian’s unique Seeds of Happiness; a fun and engaging course where children learn about the science of happiness and how the actions they take can positively impact their own happiness levels as well as those of their friends and family. Strongly inspired, I implemented the teachings in my classroom and the impact was profound.

Sara's class creating their Team Flag

Learning about the different zones of learning and the elastic-plastic brain has helped my class understand the importance of getting out of their comfort zone and that making mistakes is not necessarily negative, but potentially a learning opportunity. This concept was further enhanced when they wrote down their brain goals. "I think he is in the Panic zone; maybe someone should go speak to him," said a 6-year-old from my class during a race as he saw his friend had lost and was crying. This statement evidenced that they had begun to understand the different zones and the value of having a solid network to help bounce back from difficult situations, something Adrian paid great attention to in the Seeds of Happiness.

Following Adrian's emphasis on expressing our thanks to essential people in our lives, I had my class write a gratitude letter once a week to someone they considered important. This boosted happiness levels in both children and the individuals they consider integral to their network.

Starting the morning lesson with Adrian's mindful movement has helped the children pay better attention; they listen better and enjoy the class more. There is also a strong sense of kindness in the classroom.

An exercise in character strengths

Guided by this unique course, I have taught the children to look for their character strengths. They are beginning to understand that we are all unique in different ways, and each one of them has a superhero inside them.

I consider the Seeds of Happiness an absolute essential building block to teaching a growth mindset to young children and intend on applying these teachings to build a strong culture of wellbeing at my new school, which I plan to open in my home country of Pakistan next year.

To all teachers, headteachers, and school leaders, I strongly recommend exploring this course and experimenting with the concepts in your own schools and classrooms. I am certain you will not be disappointed!

Follow Sara’s inspiring wellbeing journey on LinkedIn.

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