Manage the Unhappiness

Manage Unhappiness Blog Post - Kat and SquirrelBefore some kids can enter the “ready to learn zone” they need to deal with some unpleasant issues.  It could be as simple as, “I think Sue looked at me with a mean face,” to the more serious, “My mom is going to jail today.”  With help from a caring figure at school, hopefully the student will be able to switch gears and be ready to receive the FUN lessons of the day.  Don’t brush these issues aside.

One way to keep the class moving forward while dealing with childhood stress is to include a great read-aloud into your classroom routine.  According to research by Dr. David Lewis, reading is the best and fastest stress buster around.    How lucky for us as teachers!  I know when I am reading a Junie B. Jones or a Skippyjon book to my class, all eyes are on me with that relaxed look of complete engagement.  What a beautiful sight to see from my perspective!

Another way to reduce anxiety in the classroom is through human touch.  Touch causes the human body to produce a brain chemical called oxytocin.  Research is still being conducted on this chemical, but oxytocin has been shown to relieve stress and increase feelings of trust.  I know the idea of human touch in the classroom can be a scary thing depending upon your age group and school policies.  But this can be as simple as a hand shake, fist bump, high five, patting someone on the back, or having kids hold hands to make a circle.  In my classroom hugs happen all the time, but if you have older kids, avoid hugs or teach them to use a side to side “teacher hug” with arms over the shoulders.  Oh yeah – we get our own special hug – that’s right.

Your classroom could become a child’s sanctuary from the stress of their world.  A place to relax, learn, and have FUN.

Free Manage Unhappiness Worksheet from Kat and Squirrel


Post Series "Making Learning Fun"

Be Happy

If you plant happy thoughts, happiness will grow.Your mood and attitude create the atmosphere in the classroom.  Students want to feel that you are sincerely glad to spend time with them.  You can model positive ways to interact by saying please, thank you, and I’m sorry.  You can sing, act, dance, or not.  You don’t need to be a performer to let kids know you’re happy – but do smile.  In the video below, Dan Gilbert explains how we have the ability to create a state of happiness in our minds that rivals truly joyous experiences.

His talk reminds me of the “Choose Your Attitude”  idea from the book Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results.  I am comforted by the idea that I have the power to choose my reaction to events in my life.  Upon self-reflection, I find that I have mastered my reaction to spilled milk at snack time.  I am stilling working on my reaction to the child who immediately does what I have just asked the whole class not to do.  And I am going to need much intervention and remediation in order to find my “happy place” during staff meetings when teachers are hashing out whether we should use the word “of” or “for” in our school mission statement.  It will pass. Think Happy – Think Happy – Think Happy 🙂

“Every thought is a seed.  If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious.” – Bill Meyer

Happy Thought Seeds Poster


Post Series "Making Learning Fun"

8 Ways to Make Learning Fun

When students feel safe, respected and connected to the learning, fun happens naturally.I’ve been waiting to start our blog until school was done for the year. The moment is finally here! After 4 straight days of crazy wild activity (awards ceremony, indoor picnic, relay races, trip to the children’s museum, lunch at McDonald’s, walk through the zoo, tornado warning, room clean up, outdoors picnic, end-of-the-year movie, and one last recess) my first graders are stepping into summer ready to return to school as second graders. I am sad about saying goodbye, exhausted from moving nonstop, and happy about the thought of relaxing a bit this summer.

I want my first entry to this blog to be something that speaks about me as a teacher as well as a mother, daughter, sister, friend, etc. So I will reflect on my idea of FUN. Teachers often say things like, “We never get to do anything fun anymore”, “It would be nice to do something fun for once”, and “Finally, something fun for a change.” It makes me wonder why these teachers are not having fun. And if they are not having fun – their students sure aren’t. That is not the classroom I want to spend 180 days in.

I’m not speaking of fun as frivolous and flippant trivia but as a playful and lively education. I strive to create fun wherever I can in the classroom. When students feel safe, respected, and connected to the learning, fun happens naturally. Some tips for creating a FUN classroom experience are as follows:

I will be elaborating on each of these ideas in the posts to follow. Meanwhile, I hope your school year is going well. And to those of you still in the classroom – keep calm – summer’s coming!

Post Series "Making Learning Fun"