Over the last couple of weeks, I have spent a lot of time thinking about happiness and optimism in life. In the wake of a tragedy I am always amazed by the resiliency demonstrated by those even in the throes of deep tragedy.
I believe it was Mark Twain who stated that "most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." How is it that some people are always able to exude positive spirits while others seems to struggle to even find even one happiness in daily events? Life often seems to be a study or test of how each of us live our lives, face adversities, and move on. We could most likely deem this study a happiness project.
Thursday was our first day back with our teaching staff and I always LOVE the positive vibe of the day. Our district hosts a Convocation and for two consecutive years now it has been in our building. After the summer break it is always a joy to not only be with our staff again! Convocation brings all staffs, certified and classified, from all 20 buildings together, filling first our cafeteria for camaraderie and then moving into the gym for the welcome back program.
Our gym is transformed from an athletic venue to a full house of excited and happy educators, from secretaries and custodians to teachers, administrators, and central office administrators. A video showing children and educators from each building loops behind the stage and noisy chatter fills the gym. There is nothing like the start of the school year!
One of the speakers was the leader of the Dublin Education Association and he read aloud a writing of his entitled "And on the 9th Day, God made a teacher." It was a tribute to Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story and was remarkable. We all encouraged him to publish this poignant celebration online.
Our new superintendent kicked off the year so positively by recognizing individual teachers himself by reading positive notes and letters further stressing his tenets of appreciation, collaboration and trust. As it ended I became to get so nervous about my upcoming staff presentation to our staff.
I have to admit that I completely obsess about it for days, spending hours synthesizing areas of celebration, future PD focus areas, inspirational readings and videos and recognizing staff. This year I became particularly interested in positive energy and happiness and how we can continue to better understand how we can encourage staff members to embrace changes and challenges positively.
One gift that my daughter gave me this summer for my birthday was the impetus to my summer's pursuit of happiness focus. It is a book entitled The Happiness Project: One-Sentence Journal, a Five-Year Record . In short, each page of the journal is each day of the year by date, with a place to write one sentence about that day for each of the next five years. What an amazing concept! Each page has a motivational quote at the top and my daughter personalized some of the pages with quotes of her own, especially on family birthdays and anniversaries.
In short, at the end of five years I will be able to look back at the last five years and see that for five years I experienced something"happy" on every day of the year for five years. So far, I have not missed a day and it has been easy to remember something good about every day. It has been an uplifting experience.
Even on the worst of days, such as Stephen's death, I was able to come home after the candlelight vigil and write about the outpouring of love on that baseball field that night.
Since there is only room for one-sentence, the journal allows the writer to focus on just one good aspect of every day.
Does every day have at least one good aspect for you? Even those bad days where it seems nothing is going right? My bet is that for most days for us, we can all take time and write down one good thing about the day, thank God, for except in extreme circumstances, our days are good ones.
I have to admit that doing this has been both comforting and inspirational to me and I look forward each day to reflecting on what "appreciation" to chronicle. Most days I find I write one big run-on sentence listing many positive experiences and other days it is just one favorite.
One reason is that I consider myself a genuinely happy person. I am blessed with good health and so is my family and I have the very best job in the world as a high school principal at Jerome. I wake up every day at 4:45 am, work out, and am eager to get to work. I have such a great admin team and staff and they make me laugh every day. My mind races with thoughts of how to make the day better for our students, staff and parents, and I enjoy collaboration and problem-solving when things do not always go well. I love my daughter, son-in-law and husband dearly. I love life and I love being happy, and I love spending time with our students during the school day and in after-school activities.
This summer I read The Energy Bus and really do feel that its 10 rules for positive energy in life, work and team are truly viable. We sent virtual "Energy Bus" tickets to every staff member and introduced a few of the principles to our staff, including inviting Positive Passengers and all staff to join us in the ride.
One of the essential principles of The Energy Bus is No Energy Vampires, which addresses how exhausting and detrimental negative attitudes and negative energy can be to a team or organization. I really enjoyed this visual and my fervent hope is that we can all move forward positively together this year, even with the massive changes facing educators, including OTES and growth measures. Being an educator has never been easy and it certainly seems like it is getting harder, particularly for those people who have a harder time staying positive in tough times.
In the end, it seems there are thousands of quotes, books, journals and articles that offer advice on how to motivate others and ourselves to be happy and positive in organizations and life. As a high school principal I have read and studied many of these and certainly have shared their main precepts professionally with colleagues.
But perhaps the best way is for every person to take time every day to write one sentence about what is good about the day, listing the date and year. At the end of our lives, wouldn't it be remarkable to read about all the memories of the goodness in our lives, one day at a time?