(Disclaimer: Some of you may find my use of exclamation marks in this post to be a bit excessive. My apologies, but I wanted to infuse this blog post with Woo hoo!)
Welcome back! My post at around this same time last year was about setting goals for the upcoming school year. This year, my resolution is to work consciously to make my 2013-2014 school year very happy, thereby hopefully making the year happier for those around me too!
As an educator, it has always been easy for me to be happy at the beginning of the school year. I am excited to start fresh. The halls are shiny. Students are enthusiastic about learning, and parents love to ease back into the routine that back-to-school brings. Then things happen over the course of the year that can make us feel less happy: stress, the daily grind, struggling to find balance, disappointments, and waning interest.
I started thinking about my own happiness, and its impact on others, a few years ago. My work with students and educators from across the province makes it very important for me to be happy. I want to work with positive, engaged and happy learners, so I feel the need to be a positive, engaged and happy principal.
Chief Happiness Officer
I read and enjoyed The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, but I wasn’t always feeling Zen. I needed practical and fun ways of looking at daily happiness at work. Last May, I had the good fortune to attend WorldBlu Live conference. When I noticed a workshop entitled “How to Bring a Bit More “Woo hoo!” to Your Workplace”, I knew I had to check it out.
The presenter, Alexander Kjerulf, is the Chief Happiness Officer (great title!) of Woohoo Inc. and the author of the international bestseller Happy Hour is 9 to 5. Alex’s enthusiasm for making/keeping work fun is contagious! We spend a large chunk of our waking hours at work, so it is vital to find happiness in our jobs.
At the beginning of the session, Alex asked us all to think back on a time when we were very happy at work. So please indulge me, and take a minute to picture a specific time when you were really happy at work. (Hopefully it won’t take longer than a minute to remember one!)
Now think back, way back in my case, to when you were a student… How will you create those memorable happy moments for your students at school this year?
Most of our happy moments at work or school (work for children!) fit into one of the categories that Alex then outlined. In all the examples shared in the session, what made people happy at work was related to relationships, results, freedom (self-determination) or a combination of factors. So, to be happy at work, it just makes sense to foster positive relationships, to recognize and celebrate successes, and to create opportunities that allow for choice.
Here are a few other takeaways from his session:
Take the time to properly greet co-workers and students. This means making eye contact, calling people by name, and maybe adding a little personal comment about a shared interest or a compliment. Example: “Hey Dianne! Happy Friday! You look great in blue!” or “Good morning, Mark! Did you see the game last night? Go Habs Go!” It takes a few seconds to add a personal word or two, but it sets the tone for a happy day and stresses the importance that should be placed on relationships.
Create a culture of praise. I love this idea because I will use any excuse to celebrate. However, this idea goes beyond birthdays and asks us to focus on the meaningful positive things about our students and co-workers when we see it and really highlight the good we do! At the end of a project, create a party atmosphere and celebrate a job well done. (In the spirit of the culture of praise, I want to give a shout out here to the amazing educators I work with at LEARN and across the province, the fabulous students who make this time of year so exciting, and everyone at LEARN for making everything run smoothly! Woo hoo! *Insert high kick here!*)
Share successes. Do a round table at a staff meeting to give colleagues the opportunity to share something great that happened in class this week. Ask students who had breakthroughs to share their work on a bulletin board, class blog, or in a sharing circle.
What practical ways will I use this year to be my happiest self?
1 – I will celebrate the positive at work! I will express my gratitude face-to-face, and by using our office Appreciation Station and our organization’s Random Acts of Appreciation wiki space. Taking the time to recognize all I have to be grateful for makes me, and the appreciated colleagues, feel happy.
2 – I will bring Woo hoo! to my workplace! (Thank you, Alex!) Sharing jokes, surprising colleagues and students with little treats, just because, make life sweeter. I love some of the ideas from Alex’s blog.
3 – I will focus on my happiness at work at least once a week! For the past few weeks, every Friday, I have been tweeting three things that made me happy at work during the week. Another great idea from Alex! Just looking back and naming specific things makes me happy and encourages me to focus on the positive.
Please join me this Friday using the hash tag #3happythingsatwork on Twitter (see my Storify) or just write your three happy things in the comments below. Wishing you great happiness this school year!