It seems kind of crowded these days in our schools next to all these snappy sounding initiatives. They're taking up all the air in the room, you might say. You might agree that they're taking away some of the great joy that we relished before these most recent years of change. What can we do about this?
This summer, my friend Patty McGee held a keynote address about bringing joy back to teaching. In it she talked about a scientist named Dan Gilbert at Harvard, who is a happiness expert (yes, that's a real job!)
Natural happiness is the happiness that is the result of something good happening to us. You buy a new car. Even better...someone gives you a new car! Just the thought of it might bring a smile to your face.
Synthetic happiness is a special type of happiness that is brought to you by the frontal lobe of your brain. Evolution has made us able to envision situations before we ever experienced them. That's how you know that getting a new car would make you feel good. Synthetic happiness is something we have total control of! This is good, but what does it have to do with us in this Age of Common Core?
A whole lot!
Patty reminded our audience how important it is to not postpone the joy, but to make it a part of the journey instead. Find smaller bits of it through the smaller successes of the journey itself. If you are helping your kids work through a conflict, don't wait until it's over (and you're tired) to find satisfaction. While you're working through it, take satisfaction that you are teaching them something so important that it will impact every relationship they ever have in their lives! Instead of feeling frustrated that a child isn't reading at that higher level, take joy in the fact that you are in the moment of helping her learn the skills that are necessary to have deep comprehension where she is, and that that is leading her somewhere new in the long run.