International Day of Happiness Middle Years Collaboration
Posted: 26 November 2019
- Belgrano Day School, Argentina
- Mayo College, India
- Providence Day School, U.S.A
- Scotch Oakburn College, Australia
- St. George’s Grammar School, South Africa
- Communication skills
- Appreciation for diversity
- Problem solving
- Sense of responsibility
- Commitment to sustainability
A group of teachers from Round Square schools have been working together on an Middle Years collaboration to create a resource bank of lesson plans themed around the International Day of Happiness which is celebrated on the 20th March each year. The Lesson Plans generated and shared through this collaboration link back to the Round Square Discovery Framework, and are now available the Resource Library on the RS Web site. Having connected online via video-conference to discuss the broad theme and explore different approaches to it, the teachers that took part then wrote their own lesson plans designed to develop young learners’ understanding of what makes them happy and how they can do acts in their local community and school to bring happiness to others.
The broad objective of this collaboration was to identify a model for collaboration that enabled teachers to connect at a professional level and explore and develop a cross-cultural theme together before developing (and sharing) their own approach and resources – to “think global, act local”. In identifying a focus theme for the collaboration, the group aimed to create shared purpose and choose a topic that would be age-appropriate, versatile for any teaching and cultural context and would result in lesson plans that could be easily implemented either as stand-alone or combined into a unit of work. A broad cross-section of schools were invited to participate, with a focus on those that were already experimenting with Round Square for Middle years, or were keen to do so, and with an objective to ensure cultural diversity within the group, enabling sharing of different perspectives from around the world.
In our first video-conference call (conducted online via “Zoom”) we introduced ourselves and got to know each other whilst also opening our discussions on theme for the collaboration. We also swapped and discussed ideas for the structure and approach we should in order to make it workable for all schools involved, and agreed on a format. We discussed the chosen theme, the lesson development and feedback process, the expected timelines for the collaboration and the overall aims and outcomes for the project. This was a great way for us all to have a clear understanding of what we were committing to whilst developing a shared understanding of the outcomes and group expectation before we got started.
From this point onward, we held four collaborative calls using Zoom, in which we discussed the following
- In-depth exploration of the Podio collaborative platform;
- Exploration of lesson planning process;
- Allocation of lesson themes;
- Discussion of timelines for lesson submissions;
- Discussion of ways in which students could connect and collaborate;
- Peer review and feedback process;
- Positives and challenges of lesson development;
- Discussion and evaluation of collaboration process; and
- Discussion of next steps.
These calls enabled to support each other through the collaboration, asking and answering questions, seeking clarification and ensuring that we were all on track with all aspects of the collaboration. These calls also provided us with a space to discuss any challenges, flexibility required and to learn more about each other’s school and teaching context.
To facilitate our collaboration, we used an online platform called ‘Podio’ which enabled us to share our lessons with one another in a shared space (private to our group) and provide feedback, add suggestions and additional resources to lessons that had been shared by others. We also used Podio as a central filing system for Zoom call notes, timelines and for sharing opportunities for students to connect. Podio allowed everyone on the collaborative team to access the collaboration in a protected space and in their own time, ensuring that emails could be kept to a minimum and messages and updates did not get lost in email inboxes.
Lesson plans produced
You can log onto the Round Square website and visit our resource library to view the lesson plans produced by the teachers that took part in this collaboration. Please try out some of their lessons and let the collaboration group know what you think by using the star rating and leaving comments on the resource library entry, including any additions/ amendments you made for use in your own:
‘Happiness is?’ produced by Ale Radmore and Kerith Dumville at St George’s Grammar School
‘Spread the smiles’ produced by Ale Radmore and Kerith Dumville at St George’s Grammar School
‘Happiness through emotional health and wellbeing’ produced by Yash Saxena and Ritu Nautiyal at Mayo College
Lessons produced by Valerie McCormick at Belgrano Day School
Lessons produced by Scotch Oakburn College
- ‘Random Acts of Kindness‘ by Clyde Goosen and Meg Dondas:
- ‘Personal and Social Capabilities‘ by Yvette Cassidy & Andrew Robinson:
- ‘Random Acts of Kindness & The Nature of Happiness‘ by Fiona Taylor and Simon Dray:
- ‘Steps to Happiness’ by Fiona Taylor and Simon Dray:
Lessons produced by Jessica Williams and Tracey Burgess at Providence Day School
Lessons produced by Aimee Theodore at Round Square
Some of the feedback from lessons includes:
“What an important outcome it is to get students to reflect on what they think will make them happy and what really makes them happy. Congratulations and thanks for sharing!!”
“Personally, I love the idea of students intentionally reflecting upon acts of compassion they “do.” I wonder if students also can share acts of compassion someone did for them? Sometimes we don’t realize the impact we have on others by taking the time to listen, smile, pay attention. I love the challenge idea. Maybe set a time frame in which it needs to be completed to keep the project moving along? This would be a beautiful wall art project.”
The main challenge encountered by the group was the impact of different time zones when trying to get together for video-conference Zoom calls as we were all available at different times and our schedules were then further constrained by teaching commitments during the school day. To combat this, we identified the time that worked best for the majority and then scheduled every call for that same time so that there was consistency and we could plan ahead to be on the call. We also built in a degree of flexibility so that if an individual teacher was unable to make a specific call, they could connect with another member of the group at another time to pick up details of the discussion.
The impact on students from this collaboration has been overwhelmingly positive with teachers commenting that students enjoyed the range of activities, the lessons complemented existing activities and programs seamlessly and students found it valuable and exciting when connecting with other students and classrooms from across the Round Square network.
The teachers involved in this collaborative initiative were enthused and excited about the prospect of developing and co-creating lessons with other teachers across the Round Square network. There seemed to be a real sense of camaraderie between the Middle Years teachers and due to this, they were aware of the positives and challenges of their teaching day and how to develop lessons which would inspire and engage not only the students but the teaching staff as well.
This collaboration has produced a model for interaction between teachers at a professional level that then has spin-off benefits for students when the resulting lessons are shared and delivered. It is one that we will recommend for RS schools to use in the future as it is a relatively contained and structured (and manageable!) way of connecting classrooms that then has the capacity to lead on to student-to-student collaboration at the next stage. The energy, camaraderie and positivity that was generated through the process made for more creative and inspired outcomes in our resulting lessons and this made the exercise worthwhile in itself. In addition, a professional support network was created with teachers that participated now having counterparts in other schools around the world that they can call on in future for collaboration, guidance and advice.
- Each participating school should identify a lead contact who will be able to commit to the collaborative initiative and drive it forward;
- Where possible, support the lead person with a small team in each school to spread-the load (and the love!);
- Make it manageable – don’t be over ambitious with your initial plan – start with an easy objective and then build from there;
- Develop a clear structure for your collaboration with opportunities for teachers/schools to bring their own creativity to it;
- Set clear and manageable timelines and stick to them – if one person is late it holds up the whole group;
- Be aware school calendars – avoid known pressure points and be ready to extend working periods to allow for holidays;
- Think about how students can go on to collaborate – what opportunities are there to connect your classrooms?; and
- Don’t worry if it doesn’t all go according to plan – any small “win” is still a “win” and the obstacles are learning experiences in themselves!