Tuesday Tips: Be Mindful

Hardwiring Happiness


Right at this moment I am sitting in our school’s library. It’s quiet. I can see out the sunny window to a clear Texas 70 degrees.

If you’ve ever been to Texas, you know how much we appreciate temperate weather here.  

It’s the beginning of spring, those precious few months when all Texans can be outside before we retreat into our caves for the months of July and August.  

Yesterday was the first day back to school after spring break, so I feel like I’m officially in spring teaching mode. My spring break was full of home improvement projects that required us to mostly stay in our house, so I did what I normally do in that situation: read books.

Shocker, I know.  

I’ve been reading Hardwiring Happiness by Dr. Rick Hanson. In this book Dr. Hanson talks about how to overcome the brain’s negativity bias by being mindful of moments in life that bring us happiness.  Dr. Hanson also asserts that moments that bring us joy aren’t necessarily big; often it’s the small moments where we feel most content.

What I’d like to do today is reflect on the small moments in my teaching day when I feel happy and content.

Presented in no particular order:

Sitting at my desk during the first moments of the day
I love to arrive at school early, a much easier task now that my own children are school-age and have to leave early as well. If I have no tutorials, I turn on a lamp and maybe one overhead light, leaving the fluorescent bulbs in all of their blinding white-gray glory for later moments of the day.  My desk faces a huge window that overlooks the library and the front of the school; I can sit and watch the early morning light.

Laughing with students  
I think teenagers are often hilarious, and I love trying to make them laugh. At my own expense, usually.

Chatting with colleagues between classes
At my school, we are supposed to be “on-duty” between classes: standing in the hallway to ward off any adolescent shenanigans.  I don’t mind this; it’s often the only chance we adults have to talk to other adults.  Often our best ideas are hatched in these 6 minutes. This is the real faculty meeting, folks.

Observing a really good discussion
There’s something magical about watching students in a Harkness discussion. What they can think of and articulate is more than I could ever think to directly teach.

Reading a good book with my lunch
I eat lunch in my room, as an introvert would do.  Lunch is a good time in the middle of the craziness to unwind and center myself. I prop up my book and read while I eat. I feel so indulgent.

Grading a really well-written essay
Actually, there’s not much grading that happens here.  Just reading and enjoying.  Yeah.

Taking a break from a stack of essays to have a meaningful chat with a student
There is a lot of grading that happens in an entire set of student papers.  But I will set them aside for a student who really needs to talk. And I don’t regret it.

What about you? What are some moments in your teaching day that bring you happiness?


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