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How can character education increase happiness?

Character education is key to what we do at Yes Futures. As a teacher-led organisation, we want to ensure that all young people are happy and well-rounded individuals. That’s why we focus on developing essential skills like confidence, communication, self-awareness and resilience, to empower students to believe in themselves.

The importance of character education for young people is also highlighted in Ofsted’s recent changes to their Inspection Framework. Ofsted’s new Personal Development section emphasises that teachers need to develop pupils’ character, to equip them with the skills they need to flourish in society.

We recently attended a fascinating webinar hosted by Action for Happiness, titled ‘Character and Happiness’. The guest speaker was Angela Duckworth, an American psychologist, who began researching character after working as a teacher and noticing that students with certain character traits tended to perform better than others. Angela spoke to us about how teachers and those working with young people can help them to develop their character, to grow into happy and well-rounded individuals.

Below, we share our 5 key takeaways from the webinar to help boost your students’ happiness and character development - as well as your own!

1) Understand that happiness is a complex concept

When asked about her definition of happiness, Angela was keen to emphasise that happiness is multi-dimensional. She told us that happiness is not just feeling positive emotions, like many of us typically think, but also about strong and reciprocal relationships with other people.

If you or one of your students is struggling with feeling conventional happiness, perhaps because of something going on in their life, it can be just as helpful to work on that person’s relationships. Strong relationships make us happy, and working on relationships might be a more feasible goal than trying to encourage them to feel positive emotions.

2) Don’t underestimate the link between character education and happiness

Angela observed that character development is crucial for happiness. It was interesting that she differentiated between being born with the potential to develop a character trait and being born with a character trait. She noted that we are not born automatically grateful for life or automatically happy. We may be born with potential to develop these traits, but this is not set in stone. This highlights how all students can benefit from developing character traits such as confidence, resilience and self-awareness.

Mark, from Action for Happiness, observed that it is very common for people to talk about developing themselves intellectually or physically, but not as much about developing their character. Angela agreed, but observed that it is becoming increasingly common for parents to focus on helping their children’s character develop. We were very glad to hear this as, at Yes Futures, character development is at the heart of what we do!

3) Remember that challenge is an important part of children’s development

We often want to take the pain away for our students, and it is tempting to tell them not to do things that they find too scary or overwhelming. While we should support and care for them, students need to face challenges to build their independence and confidence.

If they are supported by you in whatever they do, they will feel confident taking on

challenges which come their way, increasing their resilience and self-esteem.

4) Optimism is key for happiness!

Don’t worry if you or your students you are not naturally optimistic. Often we experience things in life which may reduce our optimism and that is totally understandable. But, as with all aspects of our character, optimism is something that we can work on!

Why not check out Action for Happiness’s monthly calendars for ideas on how you can be more optimistic each day?

5) Take the time to ask how your students are - and listen!

One other crucial takeaway was the importance of asking people how they are actually feeling. This is important for both your own happiness, and the happiness of the person you’re asking.

When working with a student, take the time to check in on how they are doing - don’t accept “I’m fine”. We are conditioned as humans (and as Brits especially!) to not elaborate, but it is very important for character development and wellbeing to talk openly about how we are feeling. Share with the student how you are doing in an effort to encourage them to open up.

We hope these takeaways have been helpful - for both you and your students! Angela was really inspiring and it was great to hear that much of what she said aligned with our own focus on character development in our programmes.

Ofsted now include personal development in their inspection framework. Download our FREE Character Scheme of Work lesson plans to incorporate personal development into your curriculum.

Looking to improve your own happiness and character development? Our FREE teacher wellbeing packs will guide you and your school community through your development of confidence, resilience, communication, and self-awareness.

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