A few sections of the book really spoke to me when I thought of how I could use the ideas with my students. Since I already love my job, I don't have to worry about my happiness level when it comes to getting up in the morning to go to work. But could I change the way I looked at some situations? Could I react differently to students' behavior? Could I change my perspective or my attitude to increase my daily happiness level at school? The author had some good ideas that I want to share with you here and try out in my classroom!
Goal #1: Act the way I want to feel
Gretchen Rubin suggests that when you act happy, you can be happy. I think that is a great idea! I know there are days that I just don't feel like teaching or I feel stressed and grumpy. If I let those feelings take over, then no one will want to come near me. Negative feelings are contagious--so soon we will ALL be grumpy and stressed out. That would not be a classroom environment that is conducive to great learning! By acting happy, even when I am not feeling my best, I can possibly change the atmosphere in my classroom in a positive way.
Goal #2: Do it now
I have a bad habit of procrastinating. I always think I will have time to "do it later" but when later actually comes, I am either too tired or something else takes a higher priority. This bad habit leaves me overwhelmed with piles of paper covering my desk and a nagging sensation in the back of my mind. If I just "do it now" and get it over with, I might save myself a headache later.
Goal #3: Let it go
Sometimes I get really stressed out by things kids do. When they are playing around with little toys (right now the culprit is origami stars and pointy fingers) or not following a lesson, I take it personally. Then I feel pouty and grumpy for the rest of the day, I get short with the kids and I lose my sense of humor...all because of a few origami stars! So instead of holding a grudge and feeling frustrated with them, I need to just let it go. They are being kids! Of course they would rather play with little toys than learn about fractions--who wouldn't?! Instead of making a mountain out of a mole hill, I can deal with the problem and then move on--no drama, no hurt feelings, just a loving re-direction of attention! I think that if I can let some of the little things go, I can spend my time tackling the important issues and we will all be a little happier!
Goal #4: Identify the problem
I love this one! Sometimes I catch myself complaining about "not having enough time" (see my earlier blog from January 28!) or something that isn't working the way I was hoping it would. I need to take a step back and identify the problem. What is it exactly that is not working? Do I need to start all over or will some tweeking solve the problem? A recent example in my room was the pencil sharpener. The handle wouldn't turn so the kids couldn't sharpen their pencils, which meant they couldn't get work done because they didn't have pencils to write with! I got frustrated because I attacked the symptom--kids not having pencils ready. When I finally addressed the real problem (a non-working pencil sharpener), the custodian came to the rescue and the problem was solved! In fact just the other morning, the teacher next door shared that she keeps a good hand sharpener in her pocket that she can pass out as needed. It is quick and quiet--another great solution to a common classroom problem!
Goal #5: Lighten up
I want this one to be my personal motto. In her book, Rubin refers to a study that says children laugh about 400 times per day and adults laugh 17 times. Talk about a discrepancy! When did we lose our sense of humor? As adults we take life so seriously but maybe we need to take a life lesson from the kids. We need to laugh a little bit more (okay, maybe a LOT more!) and remember that we spend our days with children. We need to remember to see the world from their point of view. So, to get you started, here is a joke that a student told me not too long ago: Why couldn't the teddy bear eat dessert? Because he was stuffed!
Goal #6: Enjoy the process
Teaching is an art and we have to remember that the joy comes from doing it. On the last day of school, I always ponder back on the year (with tears) about how fast it all went. The end is not the best part. The middle is. Once it is over, it is gone and we cannot get it back. We might as well enjoy the journey because that is where the memories are made.
If you are interested in reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I am sure you will find some great ideas for increasing happiness in your life. I found it inspiring and motivating to try out some of her ideas...and it DID make a difference! Maybe I feel happier because of the strategies I have implemented or maybe just the act of thinking about happiness made it a reality (this was one of our discussion questions at Book Club). In the end though, it doesn't matter. I want to be a happier person so I can make the people in my life happier too. Happiness is contagious.....so I hope I am infecting you!
Share your ideas about happiness or strategies you use to improve the mood in your classroom! And don't forget to smile!