February Happiness Project Update
February was all about building better relationships, with those in my family, school and even strangers. It started with three resolutions: Creating new routines, making the first call, and reaching out just because. Throughout the month, these resolutions took on different meanings than I had originally intended but I think that was a good thing.
Let me explain…
Creating new routines…
So, this one seems to just be getting started. Because my birthday is in February, we already had a tradition of getting together this month. This wasn’t a new routine. My intention is to keep this monthly dinner “thing” going next month when no one that lives within driving distance has a birthday. Next year we’ll celebrate my brother’s birthday in March. This year he is in Boston. I don’t think this year we will have a family dinner night in his honor. But I will try to have us all come together and celebrate in his absence…some time in March!
We did re-establish a few old routines that may have faded in recent times…
-Dinner once a month with Jordan’s grandmother
-Running on Wednesdays with my friend Kelli
-Spending time with our parents (when there’s not a holiday or birthday)
And I already scheduled some plans in March with friends. It’s already looking to be a resolution worth keeping!
New routines at school…
Consistently we did the Monday morning class meeting where I checked in with all students about something. This has been a great way for me to pause and get to know them better!
We started a Random Act of Kindness board and a Gratitude chart where they can continue posting throughout the semester. This provides everyone with a great visual celebrating the positive in all of our lives. It’s also a great way to celebrate more than just academics (and it takes very little time away from the other things I need to do in class).
Making the first call….
This I continued to struggle with despite having good intentions. The phone continues to feel really heavy, time feels so scarce, and when I feel totally exhausted. I know…excuses, excuses. But this is a judgment free zone and I’m just being honest!
Despite the phone feeling like it weighs a thousand pounds, I managed to connect with all the appropriate people who celebrated birthdays this month: my sister-in-law, my nephew and my uncle.
I called a few friends first and made a coffee date with another friend for March. So making the first call in my personal life will continue to be a work in progress.
This also turned out to be a difficult task. Because February marked the start of the new semester, most of the month was filled with learning, interacting with and discovering things about my students. So instead of making weekly phone calls, I made efforts to have meaningful conversations with individual students hoping that this would help strengthen our classroom community. I also tried different ways to have students respond and I started asking different questions.
One highlight happened on a Friday. I am typically terrible at doing a closing activity, but I’ve been getting better at remembering to purposefully close the lesson. On this particular day, I had students write a WWW (what went well?). I had one boy who wrote that “nothing” went well that week or that day. He gave no further support. He handed the paper in and walked out the door. When thinking about his perspective, I realized that we had experienced some “getting to know you” pains. He had fallen asleep, not turned in some work, I had been visibly irritated, etc. etc.
So, I decided to catch him at the end of the day and see what he needed from me and the class. We had a great conversation and he revealed some frustrations. I took ownership for how I handled some of his behaviors (reprimanding from across the room wasn’t exactly one of my finest moments). We did a restart. Had I not decided to be more deliberate with the closing activities, I would have never known he was feeling that way. There probably would have been more deliberate behavior and I wouldn’t have known the real reason for any of it. This simple slip of paper has really changed my relationship with this student!
So actual calls home are still on the list, but I feel confident that I have built a stronger classroom community in all of my classes this semester than I have ever done in years past. With this strong foundation, I am confident that I will be able to find even more reasons to make those phone calls home in the coming months!
Reach out just because…
This little resolution took on a life of its own! My intention was to just reach out to people more deliberately. What began as a simple resolution, turned into many different things depending on the day. Essentially each day in February I tried to participate in some kind of conscious act of kindness. Highlights included donating money to an important cause, giving birthday cards to students, writing book reviews, volunteering time for different organizations, and planning a special date night with Jordan.
Although I can see how all of these resolutions will continue to work in my life, deliberately participating in conscious acts of daily kindness was the one that helped me to find the most joy throughout this stressful month.
Last thoughts for February…
February was all about strengthening relationships. Despite how busy I felt throughout this month, knowing that I committed to these resolutions helped me do some small things for others, reach out more than perhaps what I would have, and create more deliberate and meaningful actions in my life.
Hopefully you found some of those same rewards if you participated in this month of building relationships. If you are interested in learning more, check out the entire Teaching Well Happiness Project blog. If you think of any great ideas during this month please comment below or email me and if you feel inspired join us for next month’s Happiness Challenge: Finding Time for Fun!