Are you a happy person? Do you remember yourself, siblings, friends and classmates as relatively happy children?
When you think back to your own friends and elementary school classmates, those you have taught over the years, does there seem to be an increase in students struggling with anxiety and / or stress, social and /or emotional issues?
The most unlikely circumstances of the happiest child I’ve taught in 20 years:
I taught a child who had fled from Syria with his family, and despite having so little, still stands out in my mind as the most content and grateful little boy I may have ever met. His parents were barely making ends meet as they were learning to speak English while their children were at school. He would enter in the morning, oblivious to his second-hand clothing, telling tales of adventure with the beaten down car that seemed to break down almost daily. His own vocabulary increased rapidly, particularly around the subject of cars (curb, road, ‘popped the hood’, smoke). He was proud of the attention he got from his peers. They had never seen under the hood of car!
This little student had an incredible work ethic at six years old. While he was aware of his peers’ material belongings and extra-curricular activities, what he had always just seemed to be enough. When I met with his parents, I was blown over by the gratitude they expressed for his participation in the Reading Recovery program. Years later, teaching at different school, the ESL teacher mentioned another Syrian family arriving and the anxiety of the grade eight student trying to integrate into school. Guess who stepped up to help her? I had forgotten all about him, but of course, there he was.
I can think of a number of others who appear to have everything, yet rarely seem genuinely happy. Of course, there are children who seem to have more challenges. Really big, really hard challenges.
They’re kids – individuals, but still kids, and kids are people.
The children we collectively teach are unique individuals from different countries, lifestyles, belief systems, religions and experiences. While they are so different, they are still all the same. They’re children. Children with growing, open minds, who respond to humor, positive attention, role models and respect. And stories.
When we really think about it, and put ourselves in the position of the other’ (insert misbehaving child, inappropriate colleague, difficult parent etc.): You and I know enough about people, and kids are people, that telling someone how to think, behave and especially how to feel, is not a strategy for building confidence, optimism or a trusting relationship.
This book is for all children, but especially the kids who lean towards feeling ‘glass half-empty’.
Because really, so much is possible with hope, confidence and optimism, don’t you think?
And I thank those of you who have requested a ‘Happy Feelings’ book for prompting me to get it done!
It is similar in style and structure to the popular Dealing With Feelings introductory color story All About Feelings with two child narrators interacting with the audience and each other as they observe What happy kids say and do.
I don’t want to give away ALL of the secrets, but I will say this… being a teacher AND a mom, you can trust that I’ve got you covered in slipping a little self-responsibility into the story, and spreading a little humor on top (just to be safe)!
As I was preparing to write this post, I was curious to see if there was such a thing as a Happiness Curriculum for kids, and was so happy to see that there is! In case you wonder why That Fun Reading Teacher writes about #EmotionalLiteracy, I’ll give it to you straight: Research and experience prove that many children who are overwhelmed with emotional concerns have little to no energy, attention or drive to give to learning to read and write.