I ended last week's blog plotting, I mean planning, some tomfoolery.
Since scattering confetti was definitely out, I went with balloons. Here’s the thing, though. I have self-diagnosed globophobia. I HATE BALLOONS. The squeakiness, the popping, the fear…all of it. My kids were blowing up balloons for their own birthday parties since they were three, that’s how much I hate them.
So here’s what happened Monday morning.
I bring a bag of balloons into the room before class.
“Does anyone want to blow up some balloons for me?”
“It’s to put in Mr. Hindmarsh’s office.”
“Is it his birthday?”
“Is this a prank?”
“Nope. Well, not really. It’s a joyful surprise.”
“To bring some joy. And it’s a surprise.”
Another kid walks in. “Hey, is it someone’s birthday?”
“Then what are the balloons for?”
Fast forward that same conversation at least seven more times, plus me giving a GIANT WARNING ABOUT NOT POPPING THE BALLOONS OR I MIGHT HAVE A HEART ATTACK and the kids were blowing up balloons faster than I could gather them up.
Six garbage bags later, I unceremoniously dumped the bags of balloons in Josh’s office. It didn’t exactly fill the room, but it did pretty much cover the surface area of the floor.
So, did it work?
Well, it was definitely fun for the kids blowing them up and batting them around. There’s something about the relative weightlessness of a balloon that is different than a ball, like it’s defying the laws of gravity.
For the kids, even the big ones, who were in Josh’s office for a variety of reasons that morning? “Mr. Hindmarsh, is it your birthday?”
A trip to the office is often a stressful experience, even if you aren’t in trouble lol, but he said it absolutely diffused tension for every person he saw that morning.
Like all great ideas that cross my mind, however, this one had a couple of pitfalls. It’s like a sauna in Josh’s office, and so some of the overfilled balloons expanded and popped. I think our Admin Assistant might need a day or two off now. Out of sheer coincidence, the RCMP visited the school that day, and were in the office beside Josh’s when the popping started.
I only heard about this at the end of the day when I went with a pair of scissors and all the bravery I could muster to forcibly deflate the balloons that were left. It brought laughter to people, even in the retelling of the day’s events, so it succeeded in the surprise part, and the emotions mostly seemed to be joyful.
So the book was right on that point, and it’s really got me thinking of ways to continue to incorporate joy without having to involve those air-filled latex demons.
I've written before how we always have Games Day on Fridays, with the focus on human-to-human contact (no tech allowed) and social emotional development. It’s always a joy-filled time as kids get excited and the noise level raises. We try to stick to language games like Scrabble or thinking games like Blokus, but this week a boy walked in with two ping pong paddles, a ball, and a retractable net.
“Mrs. Landry, do you think we can play this today in games time?”
I started to explain that it didn’t exactly fit the purpose of games day, and then stopped. Why bookmark tweets about the importance of play, and read books that suggest ways to infuse joy in our lives, and then say no to a (pretty cool) student suggestion?
Well, you hedge your bets is what you do, and agree to try it this time and then see what happens for future Fridays lol.
It couldn’t have been more awesome.
Some kids chose to play board games as usual. But the ones who gathered around our improvised table had so much fun. They set up their own rules to play and how to take turns. They created a list on the board for fairness. And they laughed and laughed and laughed as they played. Even our EAs got in on the action, and the stakes went higher to see who could beat Mrs. Starling.
Adults modelling fun. It was fantastic.
I even went next door and had Mr. Hindmarsh poke his head in.
“That’s what joy looks like,” I said. Super cheesy, I know. But it’s true. And I’m starting to realize more and more how important it is to name the things that we are seeing and doing. And especially naming them in front of our students.
[I have a huge thread on vulnerability that’s coming soon that speaks volumes to modelling, vocalizing, and reinforcing these big ideas simply by saying the words out loud.]
There’s a lot more about bringing joy into our classrooms that is going through my head right now, and will probably keep writing about, but this post is already too long. So I’ll wrap this one up with a quote from Joyful:
“If we rarely laugh or play, if we never have glimpses of magic or flashes of transcendence or bursts of celebration, then no matter how well fed and comfortable we are, we are not truly alive.” (Ingrid Fetell Lee)
As we come off a week of unbelievably ridiculous cold temperatures, I actually feel like the glass is half-full when I look at the pictures from #snowmageddon coming out of Newfoundland! I’ll take frigid cold over not being able to find my vehicle under 7 feet of snow. No question.
So it was a perfect time to read my new book Joyful: the Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. Coincidentally, she talks about hedonic adaptation. Up until some reading I did last week, I had never heard of it before! And it pops up again!?
The universe is speaking and I’m doing my best to pay attention.
This is a pretty good summation from Lukas Havranek: “The thing is we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy. One of the problems causing this is called hedonic adaptation - standing for our tendency to consider anything new as a standard quickly and therefore losing the joy coming out of it. If not recognized and tamed it may result in increasingly expensive purchases in desperate attempt to get more pleasure - hedonic treadmill. It is similar to junkies trying to get the same level of satisfaction by increasing doses of drugs that they are getting used to. If we understand hedonic adaptation that reduces the excitement of reaching one's goals or making purchases, we can focus on more important stuff that will give us fulfillment - relationships, meaningful work or developing our strengths.”
Happiness junkies. That’s essentially what we are.
So here’s a small section to share from Joyful. She is talking about our obsession with material things but it absolutely applies elsewhere.
“All children live in a world rich with surprises. Each new thing, no matter how ordinary, inspires a sense of wonder and delight. But novelty naturally declines with age, and our surroundings begin to dull with familiarity…hedonic adaptation is often known as the hedonic treadmill, because the cycle can repeat endlessly without bringing us any closer to happiness.”
“By restoring a sense of whimsy and unpredictability to our surroundings, small bursts of surprise also change our relationship to the world as a whole. Surprise destabilizes us a little, just enough to introduce a new idea or different perspective. It brings back a bit of that childlike freshness. By snapping us out of our habitual thought patterns, a small surprise can reset our joy meters and allow us to see with new eyes.”
It’s kind of funny in hindsight.
It was a halfway-through-September blog where I was starting to lose faith in the approach I take in my classroom. The 12s were bucking me on a lot of things.
Like the fact that I had tables. (How do you collaborate in separate rows?)
That the tables weren’t giving them much room. (It was more room than a single-person desk!)
That they had a seating plan. (Even though I had a valid reason for it, and switched it up everyday.)
Oh, they had a lot of complaints and didn’t seem to feel surprised or inspired by the change.
But here it comes. This week I lined my tables up in two long rows for an activity with the 7s. Because I see the 12s in the middle of my two grade 7 groups, I didn’t switch it back. And what did I hear?
“This isn’t going to stay this way, is it?”
It was actually a refreshing change for me, and for all the groups. It meant a brief return to a more linear, structured approach to the room…and it was just enough to ‘destabilize’ us and keep things fresh.
The idea of surprise is one that I need to remember to incorporate. Even now, I’m brainstorming ideas for tomorrow…and I’m thinking our new VP is due for some shenanigans. Tomfoolery? Is there a plural form for Hullabaloo?
On an unrelated note, anyone have some confetti lying around? Amphibians? Even a whoopie cushion?
It’s warming up, so have a great week everyone! I hope there are a few surprises in there to add some joy to your days too.
It’s felt like 2020 hasn’t had a great start. Even before the horrific plane crash this week, a World War 3 hashtag was trending, Australia was/is burning with estimates of a half-billion animals dead, and somehow I keep reading posts that think because we have an extended cold snap ahead, that this disproves climate change.
It seems fitting that tomorrow is Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year.
Even for the most optimistic person, January can be a rough time. So I was intrigued by a news article I read this week titled, “Glass half full? The world is getting better, says U of S philosophy professor.”
His name is Professor Dwayne Moore, and he makes a lot of good points.
We live longer and are more literate, infant mortality is down, and fewer people live in extreme poverty. We have more leisure time and technological advances continue to make our lives easier.
The caveat for me in his research, was that he was comparing our present lives to those who lived in the late 1800s-early 1900s.
What about what’s happened in the past generation? Decade? Even five years? Right now at this very moment in other parts of the world??
And this isn’t just for global social issues either. It’s about the kids we see everyday. Because as much as kids are, in some ways, so much farther ahead than we were at their age, in other ways they are also farther behind.
I re-watched Simon Sinek’s talk on “Millenials in the Workplace” from three years ago. It is a frank assessment of young people today, and on what has shaped them.
The four big areas he talks about are parenting, technology, impatience, and their environment.
If you’ve never seen it, it’s definitely worth a watch.
As we worked through generating topics for a personal TEDx talk in class this week, a surprising amount of kids admitted that they didn’t have anything that they felt strongly about. Not world events. Not local events. Nothing in their own lives that they felt passionate about: not angry, not sad, just nothing.
Which is a whole different thing…like the glass isn’t even there to contemplate.
So why do we feel this way?
Professor Moore says that as humans, we come with a negativity bias. "We tend to zero in on dangerous or negative things because it could affect our survival. And when a good piece of news comes, we brush it off.“ The second reason, he says is a “hedonic adaptation trait….the tendency when a major life event happens, for good or for bad, we immediately react. But then six months later we've reverted back to normal.”
That seems like a sad paradox.
The good doesn’t last.
But neither does the bad.
Another researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, has found that ”50 percent of our happiness set-point is due to genetics, 10 percent is affected primarily by circumstances like where we were born and to whom. This leaves 40 percent that is subject to our influence.”
So the glass really is half-empty, or half-full, depending on how you see it.
More emphasis is being placed on ideas of mindfulness and positive well-being, for students and staff, and that’s a good thing. On a personal level, I find that I need to work on this more deliberately now, more than at any other point in my life. That empty-nest-syndrome can feel pretty real some days!
As we head into this cold week, and the Monday-of-all-Monday’s, I’m going to focus on little gratitudes: good hot cups of coffee, a warm house, a dependable car, and time.
That’s always the one I seem to forget the most!
Stay warm everyone!!
Haha, well I did get new glasses over the break, but I couldn't resist the easy laugh. Happy New Year everyone! Hyvää Uutta Vuotta!
I’ve taken my Finnish hockey jersey off now, still a bit disappointed that they didn’t win the bronze medal against their arch-rival Sweden, but it simply wasn’t a strong game for them today. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen.
And then sometimes, like the Canadians against Russia, it does! Especially when the TSN camera saves you a crucial penalty, and a Russian player doesn’t drop a broken stick. Crazy!
This holiday was a pretty good one for our family. I was able to spend a few days just with my two sisters and my mom, celebrating my MUCH older sister’s 50th birthday. Our children were home from university in Calgary, and we went snowboarding at Table Mountain. It was just my second time ever, and I still really suck.
Like, really, really suck.
I mostly have to heel it down the hill (like going with the brakes on) and apparently I am good at riding switch. This mostly just means that I can’t decide which foot should go down the hill first…the board is set up for my left foot, but I kept going down right foot forward! Always making it more difficult than it needs to be…
The biggest problem is that I can’t do the S curves that you see snowboarders doing. Mine is more like a Harry Potter lightning bolt.
Get going too fast and heel it to slow down.
Go the other direction.
Get going too fast and heel it again.
Wait. Make that fall down. And stop.
My son got a taste of what it’s like to be a teacher. He did a fabulous job modelling and explaining. Going step by step. Painstakingly waiting for me to gather up enough core muscles to push myself up after I fall down trying. And then start demonstrating what to do again, BUT THIS TIME LOUDER. BECAUSE IF YOU SHOUT INSTRUCTIONS AT YOUR MOTHER, SHE IS SURE TO GET IT PERFECTLY THIS TIME, RIGHT??
Riiiight. (He’s not going to be a teacher lol.)
I finally had to fake taking a break in the chalet so they would leave me, and go have some fun by themselves. Despite the fact I have to explain all of this to my physiotherapist tomorrow morning at 7am, it was a ton of fun.
And I will get better! It’s just slow progess at my age. Darn kids make it look so easy and it’s not.
The only other event we took in (besides turkey dinners) was the new Star Wars movie. We have always been huge Star Wars fans, and couldn’t miss this last installment.
So in that vein, here are a few Star Wars quotes that I’m going to try and take into the new year as inspiration!
Like Yoda, I’m going to try and be more chill. Relax. Think. And tell that doubting voice in my head to stuff it. “Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?”
Yoda also said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” I want to continue to grow as an educator because I know that I can be better. Sometimes that means letting go of what is familiar and getting uncomfortable.
And when something is for the good of the group, set ego aside and work together for our common success. Lando Calrissian, good-guy scoundrel, says it well: “I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, but I accept it.”
If you follow Star Wars at all, there is a lot of teacher-learner scenarios: Qui Gon and Obi Wan, Obi Wan and Anakin, Yoda and Luke; and then with the Sith, there is always only two. A master and an apprentice. As Darth Vader faces his old teacher Obi Wan, “When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.” Which is sort of true, except that over and over, the master learns lessons from the padawan too. Lifelong learning in Star Wars and not hampered by titles.
Okay, something inspirational….well, I quote thoughts about hope from the work of Dr. Sharon Roset a lot, but here’s a similar sentiment from Vice Admiral Holdo: “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you see it, you’ll never make it through the night.” A solid piece of advice I remind myself of: things always look better in the morning.
And some final thoughts from a newer character, Maz Kanata: “The belonging you seek is not behind you…it is ahead.”
Have a great week everyone! Happy New Year!
Perpetual amateur. Lifelong learner. Vice-Principal. Teacher. Musician. Mom. Annnnd if you're reading this, then I'm still a blogger.