It’s been four years since I embarked on this journey of building happy schools in Central Vietnam. We first started by training the teachers and staff in mindfulness and social emotional learning. It is always important to start with the teachers, as the presence of the teachers in the classroom is the most important unwritten curriculum. How the teachers walk, talk, listen, and smile to the students does have some effect on the atmosphere of the class. It’s also essential for the teachers to learn how to cultivate the habits of happiness and know how to transform their strong emotions to become happy teachers themselves, as we strongly believe that “Happy Teachers Change the World” (Thich Nhat Hanh).
Gradually, we have introduced simple mindfulness exercises into the classrooms to teach our preschool and primary school students mindfulness in developmentally appropriate way. Now after 4 years, with three schools in operation, we have integrated mindfulness into all our school activities as a way of being. It is so wonderful to see the teachers and students practicing mindfulness together such as mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful sitting, mindful eating, smiling, mindful communication, mindfulness of nature, and gratitude, etc. to cultivate more joy and happiness every day at school. Happiness-Based Education is possible and Mindfulness is the way!