What is my job?

babyI find myself thinking more and more about that question as an English teacher. Along with the reading and writing that we do, it has become increasingly important to do more than simply teach basic skills inside the walls of a classroom. How can I help students prepare to be successful? How can I help students to get involved in something they believe in? How can I help students to question? How can I help a student be happy?

Deep. I know.

But there is so much opportunity to be deep in an English classroom. We can explore opinions and defend our own real-world ideas. We can know what is going on in the world. We can practice habits that will lead us to being happy.

After watching this excellent TED Talk by Shawn Achor, I wanted to incorporate some of the habits that help lead to happiness in my classroom. Achor talks about the belief that once we accomplish something we will be happy, but that only leads to setting another goal. True happiness comes before we do anything. People with true happiness do not depend on something to trigger it. Their happiness triggers something else in their lives, and this is often success. Happy people tend to have a happiness advantage:

  • Better at keeping jobs
  • Superior productivity
  • Less burnout
  • Less turnover
  • Better sales

In my classroom we spend the first few minutes writing in our journal. What a perfect place to accomplish some happiness building! Here are Achor’s ways to train your brain and rewire it to help you work more optimistically and more productively:

  • Three gratitudes – Write down three new things that you are grateful for each day for 21 days in a row. Your brain will develop a pattern of scanning the world for positive instead of negative.
  • Journal – Write about one positive experience that you have had over the past 24 hours. It allows your brain to relive it.
  • Random acts of kindness – Write a note or an email to someone and thank them for what they have done for you.

We are losing the battle of raising conscientious human beings. Too many young people are stuck thinking only of themselves and never feel the joy that comes from making someone else happy. If we want our children to grow up and become positive individuals, we cannot take for granted that this is going to come from home anymore. School must be a place where we are helping children develop emotionally. These three small things, interspersed with the other daily activities, are my way of trying to do more than just teach English.