Our guest post today is from Lisa Baylis, a Positive Educator and Counsellor in the Greater Victoria School District. She offers workshops that bring tools and strategies to educators in order to help them create wellness habits for themselves and their classrooms. Lisa also is a member on the BCalm Education Team, which offers 8-week mindfulness stress-based management workshops for educators. For more information on workshops, contact her at info@lisabaylis.com and follow along the journey in the Facebook group: Victoria Educators for Positive Education.

Congratulations!  You have made it through your first couple of weeks back to school.  By now you know who your students are, you can recognize them in the halls, and you are (probably) still bursting with summer energy.  Way to go!

Keeping that energy up throughout the year can be challenging, especially with all the demands on teachers these days.  If you’re like me, the expectations of what my job is and what I really want to accomplish aren’t always in line.  Because of all the demands in my job, I work hard at training my brain to scan the world for the positive. I want to create a culture of positive education.  By teaching skills that promote positive emotion, relationships, character strengths and resiliency, we achieve that positive culture, which also results in learning and academic success. To be able to create the positive education platform in schools, we need teachers who believe in this and live it daily.

Research now shows that when teachers are well, happy and energetic it reflects positively on students, creating healthy and happy culture in schools. Shawn Achor, in his book The Happiness Advantage, shows that positivity enhances creativity and productivity. Positive education is emerging in literature these days showing teachers they need to go beyond teaching academics towards equipping students with the knowledge and life skills to have flourishing lives.

Creating positive culture takes work and self-awareness. Happiness fuels success:  when our brains are set to positive outcomes, we are more successful in nearly every domain in our life.  Just by training our brains to look for greater levels of positivity and optimism we can change the way our students learn. With this in mind, here are five tools that every teacher can try daily to enhance their own wellbeing and help their students.

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  • Slow down.  We live in a busy world where there is not enough time to get everything accomplished.  We are so busy planning for the next ________ (lesson, meeting, parent interview) we forget about simply being present with our students.  Stop, take a breath, and if you’re ready take this mindful breath with your students. Slowing down allows everyone to catch up to the moment.  There are mindfulness training workshops for teachers — seek them out to create your own practice first, your classroom will follow.
  • Find a moment for Gratitude.  I begin my day with an email or text that thanks a colleague or friend for the work and help they offer in my daily life.  By starting the day with a moment of gratitude, I often notice (and am looking) for the positive around me all the time.  Can you make this a habit with your students?  What would it be like to begin each day thanking one of them for something unique and positive that you can be truly grateful for?  How would they feel?
  • Smile. Our brains are wired to reflect the people around us.  Have you ever walked into a meeting feeling great and left because one person in the room sucked the positive energy right out of you?  Change this by smiling, by looking for the positive and by reframing the challenges.  A genuine smile can be a powerful tool.  Some students are starting the day with difficult mornings.  Walking into your classroom and seeing a calm and real smile may be just enough to keep them forging through another day.  The little things do make a big difference.
  • Be Kind.  Being kind to others actually makes us feel good.  An altruistic act actually lights up the same pleasure centers in the brain as really good food and sex.  Think about how good we would all feel if we were just kind to each other.  American writer Henry James once said, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind and the third is to be kind.”  There is a positive feedback loop between kindness and happiness.  I’ve come to recognize this correlation between kindness and happiness in my own life.  The more I give, the happier I feel.  The happier you (and your students) feel the more creative, focused, productive and resilient they are in their daily world.  Be kind.
  • Look after yourself.  Do you whatever refuels you.  Go for a run.  Have a glass of wine with a nice meal.  Take a yoga class.  Enjoy a walk with friends.  Laugh with your kids.  Whatever makes you happy, make sure you make time for it and be fully present during the whole time. Create positive experiences for yourself and let these experiences come into your classroom for your students to see.  Watch the ripple of your happiness filter into their lives as well.

Just as stress and anxiety are contagious, so to is happiness.  You can consciously spread happiness to your colleagues, students, friends and family.  If you are looking for more information on positive education (as well as tools and strategies), the next Habits of Happiness for Educators workshop starts on October 8th.  Using the current research, this workshop delves deeper into enhancing your own happiness and wellbeing to create a ripple of positivity into the world around you.