Today I woke up to the greatest gift – a New York Times article about how happy teachers create happy classrooms if we want to give students a chance to understand where true happiness comes from in life! Mind. Blown. I have been thinking, praying, and dreaming about this idea for the past two+ years as I’ve made this coaching practice for teachers a reality. And now it’s validated in the New York freaking Times!!!
If we truly want to cultivate happiness in our homes and schools, we can’t just pay it lip service. [Teachers] must model behaviors that, according to Dr. Seppala, make us happier, healthier and more productive.
Amen! Amen! Amen!!
As teachers, we are the greatest influence on our students during the school day. We know this. And we hope that they learn that success is more than grades and test scores. We hope that they learn success is about more than just academic performance.
Success is about WAY more than those things. And we as teachers, more than anyone, know this to be true. It’s why we get freaked out by student-test-score-driven teacher evaluations. It’s why we get upset when our students’ test scores are compared against other classes or other schools. We know that student achievement on tests is only ONE measure of their success (and probably not a very good one at that.)
We must show students that success in school and life is about more than your performance.
Success is about the way we move through life. Success, in the end, is about our happiness, prosperity, and positive impact on those around us.
So – the question is – what are our students learning about success through our behavior?
How do we promote the real definition of success for our students?
We have to model it.
Teachers have long known that success in life isn’t measured by your salary but rather by your impact on the world. But success is also about happiness. And I venture to say that there are a LOT of us teachers out there who don’t model “happy” for our students very well.
It’s okay. I get it.
No need to feel guilty. Let’s instead feel convicted. Convicted to do better each day and remember what our purpose really is as a teacher.
Here are the tips that Dr. Emma Seppala, the author of “The Happiness Track,” and science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, gives in the New York Times article for modeling happiness (along with a few thoughts from me too!)
Live in the Moment
Instead of focusing on our to-do list, or our 10 classroom objectives that we have to get through today, just focus on the present moment. What are you doing right now? What is important about this moment? How can you fulfill your teacher purpose right now? Read more of my thoughts on this over at my post Cultivating Mindfulness as a Teacher (mindfulness is a synonym for staying in the moment because it’s all about keeping your mind focused in the present).
Stress, struggle, and failure is all part of life. Teaching is certainly no different. So use those teachable moments to talk with students about how you overcome those challenges. If being resilient is something that is difficult for you, then you may notice it’s also hard for the students. Students see through words that you yourself can’t live up to. If you tell them not to be hard on themselves but then beat yourself up for a failed lesson in front of them (even if it just means you are sighing and acting a bit huffy) then you better check yourself. Students learn way more from your actions than from your words. (Darn it!) Check out my post on Failing Forward if you want some more ideas on this one.
Manage Your Energy
Dr. Seppala articulated this one so nicely. We often think we have to be excited and high energy all the time. But modeling low-energy positive emotions like calm is absolutely critical for students understanding balance of emotions. This one can be helped by doing some mindfulness in the classroom activities found here.
It’s important for you to have down time in and out of school. Self-care and quiet time is SUPER important! Read more about self-care for teachers here. But Dr. Seppala also encourages us as teachers to build in some down time (or what I call margin time) into your day. This is absolutely counter-intuitive to our “get more done in less time” profession. We try to squeeze absolutely every ounce of instructional time from our day with students, but that can actually be counterproductive. Building in more down time and more margin can help students learn the yin and yang of true productivity. No one can be balls to the wall all the time! Students need that quick break every once in awhile for a GoNoodle, singing a song, a joke, or just to breathe!
Be Kind to Yourself
Focus on self-compassion over self-criticism. Self-criticism is so tempting for us recovering perfectionists, but it will wreak havoc on your students’ ability to learn in your classroom. They will stop taking risks and stepping out of their comfort zone. Worst of all, they may also develop their inner critic instead of building their inner cheerleader. Need to work on this one? Check out my post on cultivating self-compassion or even check out selfcompassion.org with free, simple exercises you can do to practice this skill!
Be Kind to Others
This one comes down to classroom culture. If we want students to treat each other with respect and kindness, then we must make sure that we are modeling kindness and respect as well. Check that you are treating students with respect and love. One great resource is Teaching with Love and Logic which will help you discipline with calmness and respect while staying consistent and firm. Check for local workshops on this method as well. It’s a winner for SURE! Once management is in check and respect is the norm in your classroom, you can encourage and recognize students being kind to each other in genuine ways.
I absolutely love that others are beginning to see the connection between wholehearted teaching and student success.
Let’s start a movement together of teachers who
- love their jobs
- love their lives
- are positive
- are whole
- take risks and fail forward
- get real
- grow continually
- take time for themselves
- know and own their needs
- and THRIVE in their #TeacherLives!
Who’s with me?!
All my love,
~Alison, A Teacher’s Best Friend
PS – Being a Wholehearted Teacher is hard and requires daily effort. Snag my Free Cheat Sheet “Top 10 Habits of Wholehearted Teachers” to help you get started on your Wholehearted Teaching journey! You can do this!! ~Alison