1. Express gratitude: Write down what you're grateful for either at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day. I also encourage you to share your gratitude with someone close to you and encourage them to share what they're grateful for. It's a wonderful way to get closer with a love one or simply pass on positive joy to a friend.
2. Get physical: Spend at least a half hour a day getting some physical exercise or focusing on your body in some way - whether you take time for meditation and are taking thoughtful breaths, whether you practice yoga, you work out at the gym, or you take a walk, get your body moving. Considering we have 24 hours in a day, and if you sleep 8 hours and work 10 hours, you still have 6 hours - 360 minutes to find 30 minutes for some physical movement. As we know, physical exercise will not only make you feel happier but will improve your health and might even help you live longer!
3. Laugh: Whether you look at a funny video, make weird crazy faces while at a stop light, or talk to someone you know you usually laugh with, do whatever you need to find a moment of laughter each day. For instance, I have a student who makes the funniest expression when I explain anything to the class - that's his thinking face, but it literally makes my day! Try even having a giant smile for a while and see what happens to you! Laughing is so important - it will fill you with joy and will hopefully remind you to appreciate all the good things in your life.
4. Fuel your passion: Do what you love as often as possible. If you don't have a job you love, then find another job! Okay, I realize many people don't always love their jobs, in fact, at times it can feel taxing, but perhaps try to find something about your job that you love - whether it's going for a walk, talking with a co-worker, completing a particular task, etc. I also encourage you to find something you love outside of your job - whether it's painting, writing, reading a book, reading a funny article, cooking, eating chocolate, going dancing, spending time with someone you care about, learning something new, taking a bicycle ride, looking at the sunset, going to the airport to celebrate good landings, whatever it is you want to do that just fills your heart with joy, do it.
5. Schedule time for happiness: Take control of your hours in the day and plan time for your happiness - whether it's time with friends, family, someone important, or time to yourself, rest time, break time, pampering time, please take the time to love yourself. There's always time for you - you just have to make sure you give the time you deserve to yourself to find joy, happiness, and then pass that joy on to others.
What do you do to bring happiness to your life?
1. Model positive body language: Have you ever noticed that when you smile at someone, they usually smile back? How about those people that seem so happy to see you - don't you get excited to see them too? For those of us with dogs, think about how happy your dog is when you come home - aren't you happy to see your dog too? We tend to mirror the body language that we encounter. If we see our boss happy and smiling and walking towards us, we feel good. Imagine, however, seeing your boss looking upset and walking towards you - wouldn't you shut down, walk away, or try to avoid your boss? It's the same in the classroom. Start by smiling, a genuine smile. Have an open body position - avoid arms crossed and a frown, welcome students with a smile. You can even tilt your head with a smile - this is inviting - just notice how students respond to you! Often, I'll have students smile at me to show me that they're ready - at times I'll have them hold their smile for an uncomfortably long time, which often leads to some laughter. This is good - the mood has been lifted and you've just made the classroom feel a bit happier.
2. Use an appropriate sense of humor: I had to add appropriate, as it really depends upon the grade level and subject you're teaching. It's important to know students' development and realize what jokes are appropriate and whether or not sarcasm is an appropriate or a demeaning form of humor to use in the classroom. I tend to avoid sarcasm as I don't consider it to be friendly and I also think it sets a rather negative tone in the classroom. I also don't mean knock knock jokes, but rather a playful sense of humor to break any tension or to lift the mood in the classroom is always enjoyable.
3. Be playful: For instance, when I was teaching fifth grade, we decorated our pencil sharpener - gave him eyes, hair and even a mustache! We called him Mr. Mustachio. The students thought it was hilarious. When Mr. Mustachio's eyes were closed that meant we couldn't bother him to sharpen pencils. Instead, we would place our pencils in the pencil hospital and retrieve another pencil that was already sharpened. But sometimes, Mr. Mustachio was awake and those were the times to sharpen pencils. This set the procedure for sharpening pencils in a playful way and students were obsessed.
4. Get to know your students and what makes them happy: This seems obvious but often we forget that students make up 99% of the classroom! If you don't know what your students like, love, enjoy, or what makes them laugh, find out! Incorporate this information into tests, quizzes, homework assignments, and class activities - they will feel heard, appreciated and might really enjoy doing a math problem that deals with the number of Drake records sold. Or perhaps, they would be excited to receive a secret mission to complete that relates to their interests while still tackling some core content standards.
5. Meditate and encourage moments of quiet/stillness: Students are coming from some place of chaos before they come to your classroom - a great way to get them all settled is by taking some moments to breathe together, to meditate, to even practice some yoga together, whatever works to get them all calm, settled, and realize they're in a safe space where they are cared for, where they are valued, and where they will have fun while learning. I do this frequently in my classroom and it's amazing to feel the difference shift from some anxiety, negativity, and wild behaviors to a calm and happier balanced classroom. Try to start your classes this way or also close out in this way before they share their learning take-away and you dismiss students from your classroom. This will set the tone for your classroom and they will know that no matter what they experienced before they came to your room, they'll have the chance to take a breath, slow down, connect with themselves, and be fully present. My 8th graders often ask that we start class this way and they smile when they hear the meditation music - because they have a moment to just relax and breathe.
What's worked for you to foster a happier classroom?