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How Can Principals Harvest Hope and Happiness in Schools?

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  • Public school principals are expected to lead teachers, students and communities into the realm of 21st Century learning with the “Four Cs of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity” (Roekel, 2012, p. 2). The violence, shootings, bullying, racism, poverty, suicides and declining achievement scores in North American schools has urged school leaders to look to other countries for inspiration. Finland’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test scores are significantly higher than Canada and the United States (U.S.). Finland has a child poverty rate of five percent, and they often achieve high PISA scores year after year. Yet, unlike other countries, they focus more on collective learning and engaging students through the enjoyment of learning with minimal homework (McSpadden, 2017, para. 3). However, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates a third of American children live in poverty. UNICEF rated Canada 17th out of 29 wealthy countries due to the number of children living in poverty in Canada (Bradshaw & Chzhen, et. al., 2012, p. 3). When U.S. test scores are averaged with their middle-class and affluent peers, the U.S. test ranking declines (McSpadden, 2017, para. 4). Yet, Finland also scored high on the United Nations World Happiness Report (2017) which indicates a connection between happiness and academic achievement (Helliwell & Layard, et. al. 2019, p. 28). I believe Finland’s success can be attributed to their engagement in appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry (AI) can be defined as collaborative search for people’s strengths, interests and the pursuits that gives them joy when they work together as an eco-system in symbiotic harmony with each other. AI involves the:
    Art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to heighten positive potential. It mobilizes inquiry through crafting an “unconditional positive question” often involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people. AI is based on discovering what is working, what gives life, what is creating energy and excitement, and then determining how to create more of it.

    (Cooperrider, & Whitney, 2005/2016, p. 334)
    In order to strengthen the school systems across North America and more specifically, Canada, I must explore the answers to the questions of: How can principals harvest hope in their staff and students? How can principals teach their staff to harvest/nourish hope in their students and school community? This paper will prove how appreciative inquiry can harvest happiness and hope in schools through improving teachers' effectiveness which can improve students’ well-being and achievement. First, a closer analysis of the relationship between the World Happiness Report and the PISA student achievement test scores will be discussed. Second, Kathleen Absolon’s holistic Indigenous research framework of the petal flower will be woven into the theoretical framework of appreciative inquiry as I locate myself as a participant within my research. Third, Absolon’s theory and the theory of appreciative inquiry (AI) will be related to case studies in education leadership. Appreciative inquiry (AI) and Absolon’s theory challenges the neo-liberal theories driving individualism, and capitalism. Fourth, these theories and case studies will be synthesized into a pedagogical paradigm to support the development of happiness and hope in schools. Fifth, this pedagogical paradigm will be used as a lens to view implications for future education leadership practices to foster happiness and hope in schools.

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    Conference/Workshop Presentation
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International