Sure, I want my students to be happy people. I absolutely want them to enjoy happiness in their lives. I don't have a heart of stone. But, I am much more interested in their learning.
I had to have a heart-to-heart with a group of kids who were becoming increasingly disrespectful and whiny. Most people who work with me know I am sort of Zen, hippy, California incense with my classroom environment. I try to keep things calm and low-key. I put as much autonomy and responsibility on the students as I can. But I certainly have limits. Especially when allotted freedoms encroach on the learning of others.
This group of kids had body slammed those limits one too many times. Things needed to change. During our private conversation, many students seemed genuinely shocked. Stuttered gasps of “You don't care about our happiness?” abounded. I had to explain that I didn't care about their happiness as much as I cared about their learning.
Of course I wanted them to be be happy. At school, however, I wanted them to learn more than be happy. I had to reiterate that this school business is hard work. It's not always rainbows and lollipops. Well, sometimes it's rainbows. Never lollipops with our new nutritional guidelines though.
I’m the responsible adult
The simple fact is that I'm the responsible adult in the room. I know what's best for my students in many situations. I know Tony can't sit next to Kevin
90% 99% of the time. I know Tina doesn't need to share every single thought that pops into her head every time she raises her hand. I know that Kendra can wait five more minutes to use the restroom.
I'm not mean about it. Just firm. Some of them are starting to come around. Who knows? With a little more time, a few may actually see the benefits and be happy about it.