We ALL know who they are. They’re the teachers who are smiling almost every time you pass them in the hallways. They look energized and motivated. Most of the time, they’ll take a moment to ask how your day is going or about something in your personal life. They’re the teachers who are adored by their students and parents. They rarely pass on negative information or chime in during a teacher gripe fest. They truly and genuinely LOVE their jobs, and it shows.
Truthfully, I’ve had years where I really felt like this teacher and other years that I envied those who did. But you know what I’ve figured out over the years? That this magical positive glow and overall attitude of happiness about teaching is a daily CHOICE when you enter your school building.
In the wise words of Abraham Lincoln, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Teaching is HARD, y’all, on so many levels, and it gets harder every single year. It gets harder to find the joy and truly love what we do and gets easier to get wrapped up in the negativity. We become like the five people we surround ourselves with the most. So WHO are you surrounding yourself with? And more importantly, are you a source of positivity or negativity to others?
So there’s this.
And then there’s a few simple CHOICES that you can make every single day to be that source of positivity. Not to mention maybe go home with a smile on your face and a kick in your step!
Here are some daily habits of the HAPPIEST teachers:
Every student. Every single day. Make it sweeter by sharing a handshake, hug, or high five with each child. Six years into teaching, I noticed my best friend, Kambra, doing this with her first graders down the hall, and you know what I noticed? Every single student was smiling and excited to see her. In turn, she was glowing and excited to pass out 23 hugs. The children who looked like they might have had a rough morning were immediately given attention and love. The students in line who were waiting to greet her were eager for their turn. Talk about starting your day on a positive note from the moment they enter your classroom!
I began greeting my students this way the very next day, and never stopped. Even when I’d had a difficult or chaotic morning, those 23 bright-eyed faces and embraces chirping, “Good Morning, Mrs. Brown!” reminded me why I showed up that day and how important my job really was.
Notice that I didn’t say to “teach all day with Pinterest ideas from the night before” or “throw your objectives boards out the window.” “Stray” means to keep the big picture in mind, but take advantage of those teachable moments whenever possible. If you teach by the book, page by page, day by day, you will lose your motivation for teaching and your students will lose their motivation for learning. Teaching is an art and a science, but it is also a DANCE. The happiest teachers are constantly tuned in to their students and move with their ever-changing rhythms.
Kids are hilarious, y’all. They just are. And if you don’t find humor in the day-to-day things that they say and do, you might be in the wrong profession. It’s no secret that teachers always have the best stories to share at the dinner table or can’t wait to pop over and tell a teammate, “You’ll never believe what so-and-so just said!” Bonus points for actually acting out scenarios on your planning period (which my teammates and I totally did.) Take time to laugh often. It’s a small reminder of why our job is the best job in the world.
A positive note home, a short email, a compliment call, even a shout out from the car window at dismissal! Even on those days when your students seem to have been plotting against you, there are always those students that make your day a little brighter. My teammate and dear friend, Sara, used to email 2-3 parents every Friday afternoon to share something positive about each child, and it was the perfect way to end the week with a feeling that you made a difference not only for students, but for their families. Take a small moment to share some love with parents, watch them swell with pride and appreciation, and then bask in the positivity that comes right back in your direction.
Teaching isn’t just about the kids, guys. Forming relationships with other adults is crucial to your sanity and survival as a teacher, AND will help you grow in your practice. So stop closing your door and start letting in some teacher friends.
It doesn’t have to be hard.
Share a cup of coffee. (And while we’re at it, let’s just add COFFEE to the list of things that happy teachers do every day. A cup of hot coffee + french vanilla creamer + 2 Sweet n Lows = my happy place) Ask a teammate for advice. And value his or her response. Grading papers during your lunch break? Go sit with a teacher friend and grade together. Run an extra set of copies for your teammate because she’s running late. Discuss the newest lineup of Bachelor contestants during car duty.
Whatever form of bonding or act of kindness you choose, the need for adult interactions and relationships will bring you a much greater sense of happiness and fulfillment about your job.
I saved this one for last because I adamantly believe it is the MOST important. I’m willing to bet that the happiest teachers you know do not go to the school on weekends unless is it an emergency. They might come a little early and leave a little late each day, but by no means work at school until dinnertime. Now, I realize new teachers or teachers who are new to a school, grade level, or district are the exception, BUT that is still no substitute for having a healthy and happy personal life.
This one is also the HARDEST for most teachers (including myself) who are committed to their jobs and their students. Why?! Because there is absolutely NO way to get everything done during the school day that we have to get done. Do we have to take work home with us? Absolutely. But do we have to drag our teacher bag in the door and work from 4-10 pm every single night, barely having time to enjoy time with our family and friends, much less breathe? Absolutely NOT. My friend Kambra once reminded me that, “The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.” Looking back on your life, do you really want to say, “Well, I was REALLY good at grading papers and returning them on time and my lesson plans were always flawless!” That’s not what matters in this life, guys. As my principal tells us after every faculty meeting, “Go home and love on your loved ones.” LEAVE your teacher bag in the car for once. The world will not end if you get it done tomorrow or the next day. Showing up to teach and invest in your students each day is what REALLY matters.
Be a positive LIGHT at your school and take care of yourself, even in times of darkness. Your students need you. Your colleagues need you. And you only have one year to shape those little minds.
“Be happy for this moment, for this moment is your life.”
-Omar Khayyam Need some more positivity? Click below for a FREE set of happiness quote posters and pictures to match this post: FREE HAPPINESS POSTERS