When we ask educators what they hope for in their students when they enter adulthood, they usually respond with a long list of life skills which include a sense of connection, peace, and contentment. Even though you have huge responsibility for teaching academic subjects, as educators you also value the human being doing the learning. There are many things you do in the classroom that invite both a joy in learning and a sense of joy and contentment in life.
- Share your joy in teaching. Not every moment is joyful, but you didn’t take on this job for the money. Spend time noticing what moments you enjoy – and invite your students to enjoy them with you. Was it a silly moment in which you all laughed together? A moment of shared empathy for a character in a book? A sense of satisfaction as students came up with a solution for a problem? It might be connection to something that brings both you and a student happiness outside the classroom.
- Music can shift moods. Think about what music you and your students might both enjoy during transitions. Invite students to share music that makes them feel peaceful or happy. Use upbeat music to support cleaning up and peaceful music to signal a transition to a calm activity.
- Welcome your students. Take a deep breath, put worries aside and find that place in you that is genuinely glad to see that student that day. Greet each one at the door. A student can also have the job of greeting others. This is a way help students feel the happiness in connecting with others.
- Practice regular self-regulation exercises with your students. No one can feel contentment when their stress level is high. Do “30 every 30:” a thirty second self-regulation activity every thirty minutes. Quick, easy and a great “reset” for your brain. Need ideas? Download a set of cards (PDF), put them on a ring as you teach them and make it a student job to lead the activities.
- Give students control. Regular class meetings ensure that children feel a sense of community and have a voice in creating classroom solutions, which can result in more satisfaction and contentment at school.