How have you made someone smile today? It's easy to get wrapped up in our own busy schedules and forget to check in with our loved ones, let alone extend a helping hand or kindness to strangers. But random acts of service, kindness, and help are what make the world a better place. Those little things spread happiness, and little things are easy to do. As educators, we know that happy students learn better, so it's worth spending some planning time on making happiness happen. In this week's post, we're looking at ways we can remind each other and teach our students to be kind and grow happiness.
Kindness and Courtesy
An entire curricular area of the early childhood Montessori Teacher Training is "Lessons of Grace and Courtesy." While this might sound old fashioned or even outdated, the purpose of the lessons continue to be timelessly relevant. The central idea of Lessons of Grace and Courtesy is that we all find ourselves in difficult, awkward, or unfortunate situations and interactions with other people. By providing students with explicit demonstrations and examples of some of these situations, we can prepare them with kind, gracious, and courteous reactions and responses. Older children may not need demonstrations from teachers, but can instead talk about examples from their own lives, scenes in stories, and even act out scenarios of their own invention. These types of lessons are perfect for beginnings - beginning of the school year or semester, new groupings, desk configurations, and classes. They can be tailored for all ages.
Pursuit of Happiness
Luckily, of all the things we each pursue, happiness is a resource that is unlimited. We can each be happy without diminishing the possibility of another being less happy. This is lucky because research shows us that students are more able to understand and remember complex ideas when they are happy. As you're planning your curricula and lessons this school year, remember to add in some time to check in with your students and help them cultivate their own happiness.
- Provide opportunities for autonomy whenever possible. Giving students agency in their own education not only helps them be happy, it helps strengthen their self-concept.
- Go with your gut. If you sense tension amongst your students, find a way to address it, gently. Sometimes spending the time to air an unspoken challenge is worth the struggle to teach (and learn!) through the tension.
- Give happiness through small acts of kindness. Even when we aren't feeling particularly positive ourselves, making another person smile can turn our own moods around. Start by surprising your students with a little treat - hold class outside, pass out little chocolates, or let them choose the activity of the day. Watch how beginning class with smiles affects their learning experience.
Stories About Happiness
- More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Happiness shouldn't be this hard. When it first gets announced, the Leteo Institute's memory-alteration procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto - miracle cure-alls don't tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor, how his friends all seem to shrug him off, and how his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. He has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it's not enough. Then Thomas shows up. He doesn't mind Aaron's obsession over the Scorpius Hawthorne books and has a sweet movie set-up on his roof. There are nicknames. Aaron's not only able to be himself, but happiness feels easy with Thomas. The love Aaron discovers may cost him what's left of his life, but since Aaron can't suddenly stop being gay Leteo may be the only way out.
- The Happy Owls by Celestino Piatti
Two owls discover the secret of peace and happiness and eventually share their secret with all their barnyard friends.
- The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
In the Nichomachean Ethics-- so called after their first editor, Aristotle's son Nicomachus--Aristotle sets out to discover the good life for man, the life of happiness. He discourses on happiness, including the supreme happiness, possible only for a few, and a secondary kind of happiness, available in a virtuous life of political activity and public munificence.
- Sold by Patricia McCormick
Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family's crops, Lakshmi's stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at "Happiness House" full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution. An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family's debt-then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave. Lakshmi's life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother's words-Simply to endure is to triumph-and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision-will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life? Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.