Wonderful Testimonial

We just received this testimonial from Amy Doyle the mother of one of our students from last year – Ryan Doyle. We just have to share it with you!
“My son Ryan Doyle participated in your Happiness at School project at St. Michael Catholic School in Belleville, and in short, it was a Godsend for him. You should know – you’ve had a HUGE impact on his life! I never saw him enjoy school the way he did during the time that you were teaching him! The days that you were there were the days he set his alarm to be up early and ready to go. He worked at his comedy like it was a full time job – so I truly believe this is his passion. Thank you for awakening that in him!”

—Amy Doyle, 2017

Ryan Doyle

Rolling Out Facilitator Certification Online ECourse

While running the Happiness at School™ project in five schools this fall in souther Ontario (stretching from Belleville to Toronto to Oakville) we have had many requests asking questions like, “How can I get this going in South Africa?”  NO Kidding!  And, “Can you tell me more about this project?” We have heard the requests and we have responded!

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I sat down and developed a three-Module online eCourse that is self-paced to certify you as a Happiness at School™ Facilitator. That means you can work through  it at your own speed — all on one day or spread out over a longer time. Once you purchase it, you can go back to it anytime.  We want to spread the training opportunity further and also maintain consistency and high-standards, so there is a simple process for certification.

Take a deeper look by visiting our website and clicking on the link to go to the free Overview video. Here is a direct link.  http://happiness-at-school.ca/?page_id=827

You will be able to download all the print resources and video clips AND the two essential documents: The Facilitator Playbook© and the Student Playbook©.

Boards of Education can obtain a quote for a multiple user group. The eCourse works on any mobile device as well as a computer or laptop.

We are happy to say that we used the Kajabi Next platform to host this eCourse. It’s a fantastic service for businesses like ours!

If you have further questions, just drop me an email at suestephenson@rogers.com.

Happiness at School™ Website Gets Redecorated

I love those HGTV and W Channel home shows about tearing down walls, re-purposing rooms and spiffing up older houses. Don’t you?  Well, our website just got the same redecorating treatment. Not quite a “flipping out” renovation but some new rooms and a fresh coat of paint for sure!

Take a look and see for yourself. www.happiness-at-school.ca

 

Thanks goes to my long-standing, trustworthy and talented webmaster Greg Rodrigo! We partnered up together again – it’s three times now I think we have done a major revamp together. I think the site is better organized for sure.  I couldn’t have done any of this without Greg at the other end!

The big new piece we are rolling out is the NEW Facilitator Certification eCourse so more of you can become Happiness at School Facilitators and get the project going where you live, or teach it in your school!   We also have new “rooms” about the Happiness at School™ project and its participating schools and sponsors this year.  You will Meet Our Fabulous Team as well. Take a jog over and see what’s new! It’s all swept up now and ready for visitors!

Happiness at School™ New Plans!

We are proud to share good news today about Happiness at School™ -  an innovative mental health and literacy project taught through stand-up comedy to students in grades 7-10.

From now on, this project will be a division of the new company Sue Stephenson Productions Inc.  We are making plans to respond to a growing interest to bring this project to more schools and make it easier for you to get going. Plans are underway to to offer self-paced online eCourses for the training of licensed facilitators.  These are on schedule to be available by the end of June, so watch for updates. In the meantime, the two Playbooks have been moved to an Under Construction site and are temporarily unavailable.

Email Sue Stephenson in the Contact Form on the website if you would like to be added to the email list.  Keep in touch with us!

Visual Map Stage 2 & outcomes

 

New Happiness-at-School Project Playbooks

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The Happiness-at-School Project© is a joyful literacy, learning experience that uses stand-up comedy to teach kids about mental health and well-being. There are two new Playbooks to help teachers and comedians start a project of their own.

The Facilitator Playbook is an outline of the activities and a new suggested sequence to use with students, along with extra resources.

The Student Playbook is designed for students to use as they experience the activities in the project.

These Playbooks (Facilitator Playbook (16 pages) and Student Playbook (24 pages)) are available for the special price of $19.99!. You can purchase a digital copy at www.suestephenson.ca.  Alternatively, you can order a copy of the Playbooks by sending Sue a message through the Contact form on the website. Once you have purchased these documents, they are yours to copy and use with your class or family. Contact Sue for a school or board license for these Playbooks.

In addition to these books, follow Sue’s BLOG to find even more hints and resources to use!

Students Do Stand Up – CTV Toronto media coverage

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Here’s another excellent example of the widespread media coverage North Kipling JMS received for their Happiness-at-School Project Stand Up Comedy Showcase Coverage on Dec 7, 2015.  This one, by CTV Toronto with reporter Scott Lightfoot, aired the evening of the Showcase..  It shows you more student performers, comments from teachers, creator Sue Stephenson, and the two comedian coaches Kyle Woolven and Marc Hallworth.  Bravo to everyone!

Follow this link to “Students Do Stand-Up” coverage!

 

 

 

Comedy Showcase 2nd Year of Student Performances

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The final performances from the Year 2, 2014-2015 Comedy Showcase  are available for your viewing on vimeo.com under Comedy Showcase. We thank all these students and their teachers who took a risk and tickled our funny bones!

In the second year of our Happiness-at-School Project, at North Kipling JMS in Toronto, we encouraged students to perform alone or they could form groups of two or three in what is called sketch comedy vs. stand-up comedy. In the photo you can see Alyssa, Emily and Kathleen near the end of their sketch!

Comedian Kyle Woolven, helped the kids with this description:

What is a sketch? A sketch is a short, funny, scene that consists of two or more characters.

When writing a sketch, these are the words you need to know:

Premise – what the sketch is about

Characters - the people in the sketch

Beginning - the characters encounter a problem

Middle - the characters try to solve the problem

End  – the characters either solve the problem or don’t

Beats – repeating jokes that escalate each time

 

These are the performers names alphabetically:

Alyssa, Kathleen and Emily, in Mall Madness

Avanie, Julissa and Julysa

Dhruv, in The Truth

Harie and Abilash -  The Gas Guys

Mati and Vikrent

Nikens, Bruce and Pavithran

Rachelle and Corina

Raksha, in Sticky Situations, and

Sirius and Surya, in The Quirks of Chindia

Some students thought it would be easier to work in a small sketch comedy group but in fact it may make it a little more difficult because they have to trust the other person/people to rehearse and learn their lines. When it works, it’s a masterpiece of teamwork!

Fiction for Students – Mental Health and Well-Being

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Reading books have always been a way teachers and parents help children and young adults learn to make some sense cope with their world. As I prepare to be a speaker and panelist at the 2016 Reading For The Love Of It conference in Toronto Feb 17 & 18, I have been exploring books about mental health and mental illness.

A few months ago on a Saturday morning, sitting on a big, comfy sofa upstairs at Toronto bookstore Mabel’s Fables , Erin Grittani, Books For Schools Manager spent an informative couple of hours with me sharing an interesting stack of books she had pulled for me on the topic.  She warned me that kids today are pretty savvy and look for books that teach them about their questions around issues like mindfulness, anxiety and depression, for example, but don’t want to be hit smack in the face with the issue.

Grittani compiled a few books by picture book, middle grade and young adults categories in the recent Reading For The Love Of It Newsletter. This list intrigued me and I dug further into ones I selected at the bookstore.  Here are the ones I have become familiar with and would recommend:

Awesome is Everywhere by Neil Pasricha

Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen and Matt Phelan

Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly and Lisa Brown

Jane, The fox and me by Fanny Britt and Susan Ouriou

Dare!: A Story About Standing Up to Bullying in Schools by Erin Frankel and Paula Heaphy

Happiness Doesn’t Come From Headstands by Tamara Levitt

Nobody: A Story About Overcoming Bullying by Erin Frankel and Paula Heaphy

To This Day: For the Bullied by Shane Koyczan

Footer Davis is Probably Crazy by Susan Vaught

Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

 

These titles should be available at the Mabel’s Fables exhibit at the conference.

………

On a related note, I have been impressed by the work of Iolanda Scarcello, (Social Worker, Area B in the TDSB) who wrote an article in the TDSB Mental Health and Well-Being Newsletter (Jan. 2016) entitled Bibliotherapy.  (Click on the link) This was a new term for me at the time and I liked her explanation. “Overall, bibliotherapy is an interactive and engaging way to foster self-awareness and introduce helpful coping skills for various real-life situations.” She included four sample books, consisting of fiction and non-fiction titles, suitable for children and adolescents. I encourage you to read Scarcello’s article in full.

She included:

Can I Catch It Like a Cold? by Centre For Addiction And Mental Health and Joe Weissmann

Ian’s Walk: A Story About Autism by Laurie Lears and Karen Ritz

When Sophie Gets Angry…Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess

 

This learning through reading approach is highly recommended as an additional strategy for your mental health and well-being planning team at school working closely with the teacher-librarian.  Let me know further titles you suggest!

 

Mental Health Through The Students’ Eyes

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“It’s amazing to learn and be able to say, “I did stand-up comedy when I was 12 years old.”

You can see in this weighted word cloud above the most commonly mentioned, positive adjectives from the students’ eyes to describe the Happiness-at-School Project.  Here are some comments from the final blogs of 7/8G and the Post-Survey three classes students completed to give you the students’ perspective. Yes, there were students who had doubts and reservations about the value of the project —and we valued and listened to them — knowing how sensitive and critical kids can be. But, overall we were impressed by their positive comments.  Their suggestions have led to future improvements and changes but the core concept remains the same.

CBC TV covered the Project again this year. Take a look at this link to hear the performers in the final Stand-Up Comedy Showcase, the teachers and comedians, and myself.  I am always amazed at how hours of filming can be cut down to a 2 minute story — on national Television!  Thanks CBC and Debbie Lightle Quan for capturing our story.

 

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Here are all the performers at the rehearsal — with Marc and Kyle the comedians who got us there.

Back row: Shazane, Daniel, Karan, Abby, Richard. Front row: Harleen, Marc, Yash, Loshika, Murcelle, Tanesh, Edwin, Rizi, Uroosa, Harit, Micheal, Kyle and Kenson.

 

These were the parts rated “most valuable to you personally” from the Post Survey: (in ranked order)

  • The Stand-Up Comedy Showcase
  • Coaching from Kyle and Marc (our comedian coaches)
  • The Inside-Out movie and emotions
  • mindfulness and meditation class
  • writing and performing my One Minute Joke
  • writing and performing my Two Minute Story
  • Pharrell Williams’ HAPPY song, although some students want a more current song

“Some kids are sad and scared to come to school. It will give them a reason to come to school and to smile.”

 Here is a sample of student comments from the Post-Survey:

  • I learned that you don’t have to make fun of someone to make them laugh. —Tanesh
  • It helped me get all my issues off my mind and really helped me laugh. —Sonia
  • It helped people talk about themselves. —Gandrav
  • Every bad or good thing can be turned into something funny.—Daniel
  • I learned a lot about handling stress, taking moments to be mindful and also staying happy —Ishani
  • It brought a lot of positive vibes to our school and was a big stress reliever. —Karan
  • I learned that being sad, angry, afraid, etc. is part of being happy. —Hailie
  • It was fun and teaches us a lot about mental health and how to find emotions without finding it in a negative form. —Victoria
  • I learned different ways to be happy. —Terrance
  • I learned that is OK to feel sad and that happiness can come from anything. —Yash
  • I learned that there are many ways to relieve stress and be happy and making the best of what I’ve got and being at peace with it. —Harleen

 Here is what they said they learned about mental health and emotions:

  • You can’t be happy without all 5 emotions
  • A lot about handling stress, taking moments to be mindful
  • how to be happy, It’s OK to have a little laughter in your life
  • positive mental health can remove stress and stress-related issues
  • if you have problems, you need to talk with someone

And two final comments from Karth and Kashish

The Happiness Project is a splendid project on its own. Although there may be hesitance at firs, the cycle will endure, the mind will clear and it will seem enjoyable…When new classmen encounter the program next year, squelch their anxiousness and attempt to calm them. Tell them to jump in, head first. – Karth

This project really takes a large step in raising awareness for mental health in NK. We learned how to write jokes, laugh at ourselves, and make sure we don’t put anyone down while writing comedy because this project is about happiness and fun! (I also loved to meditation session that we had, it really calmed me down. – Kashish

 

Our Third Year of Ha-Ha-Ha-Happiness

The Happiness@School Project© is a joyful learning experience that uses stand-up comedy skills to promote well-being through mental health literacy, positive psychology, and laughter. It is a Canadian first using strategies to encourage skills that aren’t traditionally taught — but have serious curriculum connections!

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Take a look at this link to The Toronto Star coverage , a fantastic article, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To School written by Louise Brown and captured perfectly in photos and video by Todd Korol.

As the creator of the project, I worked (it was more like playing) with two professional comedian-coaches, Kyle Woolven and Marc Hallworth, and we ran a series of workshops with students in three grade 7 classes at North Kipling Junior Middle School in the Toronto District School Board. Sincere thanks go to Principal Alex Tracey and the three grade 7 teachers: Doug Cornell, Shannon Patterson and John Morrone for their pioneering spirit with this innovative project. As an Accepted Partner with the Toronto District School Board in their Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy, we had these outcomes in mind:

  • to develop high-level language skills (oral and written)
  • to build resiliency through mental health and well-being
  • to develop character strengths, including creativity, gratitude, humour and play
  • to develop comic writing and performance skills
  • to experience the value of stand up comedy skills to turn problems into punchlines
  • to learn the difference between humour from a helpful class clown and a hurtful bully
  • to lighten up with laughter exercises, mindful meditation and breathing techniques

The Stand-Up Comedy Showcase was the culmination of 3 months of playful work where sixteen budding stand-up student comedians in grade 7 performed acts they have written themselves — about themselves. This is not a contest and is intended to feature a variety of diverse student personalities.  To laugh at comedy on TV or in movies is one thing, but to write and perform stand-up comedy about yourself in front of others is a totally unique experience. We learned that writing for performing is a unique set of literacy skills. The media coverage we received just blew us away!  I will share as much of it as I can in these blogs.

Although this was a grade 7 project, we believe it would be successful in high school as well. We are currently developing plans to take this to more schools in Ontario and even across the country.

The plan with my plans for this weekly Blog this spring is to take you through the process with video clips and resources you can adapt or use directly with your classes. Next week, I will feature  comments from the students from their blogs and final survey.

In a few weeks I will be posting a Project Guidebook that contains a Teacher Guide and a Student Book.  Stay tuned to this space for a lot more fun and information. I welcome your comments and questions.