What makes you happy?

I enjoyed hearing Pat share about The Happiness Project over dinner last week, and just started reading it last night on my iPad. It got me thinking about what makes me happy in teaching. I’ve had some difficult years where it was very hard to focus on what made me happy. Years where the days that ended in tears far outweighed the days that ended with a smile. Years where I really questioned whether I could stay in this career or not. This year, in my first year teaching kindergarten, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my teaching career. On my run this evening I reflected on why – what is it that has me being so happy as a teacher right now?

1. The kids. I absolutely love my students. They are funny, sweet, caring, energetic, loud, wiggly, creative, bouncy, squirmy, fabulous, thoughtful, inquisitive, wonderful little people. They love being at school and make our classroom such a happy place for us all to be. They force me to be in the present – in the “right now” – because that’s where their world exists. They celebrate the littlest things and help me see the beauty and magic in the 1/2 inch that our plant grows overnight, the magnets in our science center, the first words they put in their books and that first book they read all by themselves. Every day has little celebrations woven throughout. Even when things get tough (and yes they do get tough, as in any classroom) we work through the problems and end up back in our happy place. They seem to get, in their 5 and 6 year old wisdom, that life is short – fix our problems quickly so we can hug and go back to play. I learn so much from my students every day.

2. My team. I work with 2 dedicated, passionate, fun teachers and 3 amazing instructional assistants, as well as a wonderful ESOL team. I feel supported, encouraged and connected unlike any year before in my teaching career. It makes all the difference when you have team members you can share with, reflect with and create with. I never realized the power of collaboration until this year. I learn from these wise educators every day.

3. My school. I feel respected as an educator and trusted to make decisions in my classroom. This is huge. I am VERY aware of how little this happens in other schools around the country. Being trusted as a knowledgeable professional in your classroom and school is empowering and motivating and something ALL teachers should have. And it can make all the difference in how happy you are at work.

4. The play. Our day is full of play. Pure play, playful learning, playful discoveries, outdoor play, dramatic play, literacy/math/science play. Purposeful play that supports children in learning and growing in a developmentally appropriate way. How can you not be happy when your day is full of play? I work hard every day. I go home utterly exhausted. But I like to think of it as playing all day, because it rarely occurs as “work”.

5. The books. Reading books to kindergarteners is pure joy. I love sharing my passion for books with my young learners. They get so excited when I introduce a new book, they love reading books by themselves and with a friend, and they love hearing books read aloud. I get to plan great books to read for our curriculum and share them with my kids. It’s really one of the best parts of my job. Helping to cultivate a love of reading and writing through complete immersion in the wonderful children’s books that are out there is a tough job. But someone has to do it. 😉 I’m so happy it gets to be me.

What makes you happy? 

How do you stay happy in the face of the many challenges facing education and educators currently?

6 Comments

  1. Connecting with students really makes me happy. Their smiles. Sharing a story with them that I know they’ll love. Watching them navigate a difficult situation with grace.

    All of that is somewhat hard to come by in the sixth grade, but it does happen.

  2. I have one important question for you: HOW MANY YEARS did it take for you to get this happy?
    I feel at a crossroads right now, as I’m sure most to all teachers feel. I LOVE MY KIDS, but I struggle because I feel like the combination of where I am not won’t allow me to do what I WANT to be able to do for them. It sounds as though all of your factors have fallen together. I thought that was it for me also, but I’m realizing that all I’ve got are the kids. When I leave the classroom each day, I don’t feel happy. On the other hand, I’m scared to move because I think-what if I end up in a situation that is WORSE?
    Your post was just what I needed to make me realize that this is natural, I’m not alone. Do you have any advice for me? Should I stay with a job that I KNOW I have, where I love the kids and would have the first year of teaching the same thing/familiarity? Or should I continue to search and grow, and understand that if I don’t find a job right away that it’s okay, because new things will come along?

  3. Katie,
    I love this post. I think it is important for educators to remind themselves what makes them happy in their careers and in their daily lives. I’m going to ponder this a bit. This line is so true, “They force me to be in the present – in the “right now” – because that’s where their world exists.” We are so fortunate to do what we do. I am always quite certain there is no other profession that could make me as happy as this one does.

    Cathy

  4. Cathy (above) just tweeted this so I found you. What a wonderful ‘happy’ piece you’ve written. It’s great to be a teacher as I see you know. I think you’ve got it just right-the kids first, then colleagues & finally reading-woo hoo those are the best parts. Thanks for telling so many details too.

  5. Happiness in the classroom is so important! AND teachable. 🙂 Lately we’ve been focusing on daily gratitude statements and mindfulness to create a culture of joy in our room. It’s making a big difference! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Katie,
    I think kids are the first things for me, too. I feel privileged to work with young children – and their immediacy and ‘in the moment’ living is a key to enjoying them. I love the originality and creativity of children – and they constantly surprise me with both.

    Children’s books these days are a special because of the variety and quality available – I have dozens in the room. Children’s art is another treat for me… and their writing and their talk…
    Thanks for a happy blog!
    Coral

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