This quote is one of my favorites. If you’ve attended a professional development session with me, there’s a good chance I’ve shared this with you at some point. It so clearly articulates the importance of taking good care of ourselves as educators.
Teachers’ Moods Impact Students’ Moods
Our emotional state has a profound impact on our students.
Researchers in British Columbia performed an interesting study which highlights just how profound this impact can be. They collected saliva samples from 400 students in grades 4-7. (I imagine kids lined up down the hall preparing to spit into glass tubes.) Those same students’ teachers took a survey to determine their level of emotional exhaustion. When researchers analyzed the data, they found that students with burned-out teachers had higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in their saliva.
The biological connection is clear. Burned out teachers have stressed out students.
Imagine how powerful it would be if we could start each day in a better mood! We would feel fresher and could greet our students with more enthusiasm. We would have more patience when they struggle. We would enjoy work just a bit more each day.
Here are five simple ideas to try. Any one of them might help. Use a few of them, and you’re almost guaranteed to start the day happy and ready to go!
Exercise in the Morning
The connections between exercise and emotional health are clear. Don’t have time to go to the gym? No problem—even a short amount of exercise is beneficial. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier each morning and try some of the following exercises around the house or neighborhood: walk, run, yoga, dance, jump rope, or even vigorous housework or yard work (vacuum, rake leaves, sweep the driveway, etc.). Boost your resolve by logging what you do each day in a simple journal!
Listen to Upbeat Music
Consider creating a “going to school” playlist of upbeat and fun music. You might include songs that are some of your favorite feel-good tunes—ones with upbeat tones and tempos. Or, do you have a soundtrack from a favorite movie or musical that gets you in a good mood? There’s a playlist that’s already made for you! If you really want to boost your mood, sing along!
Listen to Comedy
Do you listen to Pandora Radio? If so, try creating a station based on a favorite comedian or two. How can you not get into a good mood as you listen to comedy sketches? Looking for a good starting place? Here are a few of my favorite comedians who also tend to be (mostly) clean: Brian Regan, Jerry Seinfeld, and John Pinette.
Focus on Positives
Too often, we allow negative experiences and narratives to spin in our minds. We worry about the tense interaction with a colleague and fret about an upcoming tough phone call with a parent. We wallow in guilt over a snide comment we let slip to a student. Of course, it’s natural to think about these things, but we should be careful that they don’t control our mood for too long. Instead, force yourself to shift your thinking and focus on some positives. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- What you’re looking forward to today?
- What’s going to be fun?
- What is something that went well yesterday?
- What is a specific subject/class that’s going especially well right now?
- What’s a long-term project that you’re working on that feels powerful and important?
- How have your students grown so far this year? What social, emotional, and academic skills have they learned?
You’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine. You know that when you’re happy you smile. But did you know that it can work the other way around–that smiling can actually make you happy? In the short term, laughing and smiling stimulates your heart and muscles, releases endorphins (feel good hormones), and eases tension. In the long-term they boost your immune system, improve your overall mood, decrease chronic pain, and increase personal satisfaction. So, start your day off with a smile. Smile at fellow commuters. Share a joke with a colleague. Smile and laugh with students. And if you’re not quite feeling in the mood to laugh and smile? Fake it ’til you make it. Research has shown that fake smiling and laughing have the same benefits as the real thing!
For some of your students, school may be the one place where they have a chance to experience caring, loving, supportive, and healthy adult role models. It’s their one shot to have adults–who are truly grown-ups–treat them with kindness and respect. Let’s make their daily weather a bit brighter by starting our own day off in a good mood!