If You Want to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life...

  • Child Development
  • Curriculum
Marilyn E. Stewart, Head of School

I recently enrolled in an online course that is an abbreviated version of the most popular class ever taught at Yale University, a class called “Psychology and the Good Life.” Professor Laurie Santos developed the class because of her concern over the levels of student depression, anxiety, and stress that she was seeing as a Professor and Head of College at Yale.

Indeed, the national statistics on anxiety and depression amongst college students is astounding.  Different reports cite that up to 60% of students enrolled in four year colleges suffer from anxiety and/or depression, and that ever increasing numbers of students have prescriptions for antidepressants. These stark facts have contributed to the rise of the Positive Psychology movement, first started at the University of Pennsylvania by Dr. Martin Seligman. In a nutshell, Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.  

For those of you familiar with Red Oak’s middle school, you will recognize that these themes form the foundation of the 4-year Health and Wellness curriculum. Our intention is to help youngsters  develop a sense of well being that will enable them to confidently face the ups and downs that life is sure to bring, and to use their personal strengths to contribute to the betterment of our society. Consistent discussions of the traditional social/emotional curriculum are included -- friendship, peer pressure, setting boundaries -- but perhaps more importantly, there is deliberate emphasis on happiness. How do we develop happiness? We build relationships; cultivate kindness; treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope; strive to identify our intrinsic motivation; discover and use our strengths; exercise and eat well.

Importantly, at Red Oaks, the ideal of helping students to be happy not only forms the basis of the health and wellness curriculum, it forms the basis of our school’s values and the deliberate shaping of our school climate. Our mission, to develop each child's gifts by inspiring personal and intellectual growth, can only be attained if we stay true to our gentle, caring culture. Ours is a community where everyone matters and everyone is encouraged to share thoughts and feelings. In our world, respect is key: respect for self and respect for others. Our Montessori roots have taught us to identify and build intrinsic motivation. Our IB roots have given us a global context to explore these themes and the gift of always applying conceptual/factual learning to practical, real-life experiences.  Our three D’s (Dweck, Duckworth, and Deak) have led us to believe that a positive mindset, grit, and “stretching your rubber bands” will lead to competence. Our philosophy ensures that we help children explore academic, artistic, and physical pursuits in order to experience balance in their lives. And our wish that our students will develop empathy and compassion is evidenced both in everyday acts of kindness and community service programs.

A college course in Happiness is both noble and worthwhile, but the truth is that schools can help families develop happy children by starting much, much earlier. From the day even our youngest students start at Red Oaks, our focus is on educating the mind, the heart, and the soul. We value achievement and happiness, and know that these are both attainable goals.

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • emotional
  • happiness
  • Health & Wellness
  • International Baccalaureate
  • Montessori
  • positive psychology
  • social