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Countdown to Happiness


They aren’t really resolutions, but here's a countdown of ten ideas that may help you become a better teacher, or at least a happier one. Some have already worked for me, and others are goals for this year. I'm not telling which is which.

10. Grade some things verbally. If a child can tell you a good theme statement, does she really need to write it down for you to carry home to pull out of a folder to read and write a “good job” on it and to put back in the folder back in the bag back in the car to hope you can find it tomorrow when class meets again?

9. Join a school-wide committee. The more you know about the big picture of your school, the better prepared you’ll be for new challenges.

8. Get to know teachers from other departments. As an English teacher I don’t hear much about the Math department. But I make a point to talk with math teachers in the halls or at social events. So if I have a math question, or need to find out about a student, or just want a kind word after school, I have friends all over.

7. Talk to other teachers, positively and enthusiastically. Tell them what great things are happening in your classroom. They will feel competitive and will want to share great things with you – so you’ll have a never-ending source of great ideas to use!

6. Practice your discipline. If you teach English, read good literature for pleasure. If you teach science, conduct your own experiment. Remind yourself of what you love about your subject.

5. Refresh your mind. Try something new. Take up a new kind of puzzle, learn a video game, begin writing, try a musical instrument, a foreign language, or a different sport. We ask our students to learn something new, so we should be willing to do so ourselves. It will make you feel smart.

4. Model what you’re teaching. Do what you’re asking the students to do. If they are writing a reflection on something just read, write one yourself. Keep your own portfolio and writer’s notebook.

3. Develop a support network. We all need someone to whine to when things aren’t going right. A trusted co-worker (who won’t pass on the information that you had a minor breakdown this morning) or a family member who doesn’t mind listening will help you keep your sanity.

2. Know when to be quiet. Sometimes we talk about our jobs too much, boring others (like spouses) near to death. Sometimes we comment on students, or other teachers, or the principal, without thinking. Develop an awareness of when it is best to count to ten instead of speaking.

1. Know when to make noise. Celebrate Success and Challenge. When a problem is overcome, or a milestone is reached, we must celebrate - sometimes privately, sometimes with public recognition. Celebrate the victories of others, and don’t be shy about celebrating those of yourself. Celebration brings joy.

I'm going to print this out myself, on fancy paper, and hang it in my classroom. Good ideas to see me through the winter. Hope you can use them!


Wow...I think I'm going to send this out school wide today. While I'm only a Long Term Sub and first year teacher, sometimes that's forgotten because I've been there so long....I love this and will hang it on my board also. Thank YOU!!

Great, succinct message. I am on my way to a "Powerful Conversations" meeting where teacher leaders and administrators discuss program improvement. Hope you don't mind that I share this!

What you have written encourages me to want to teach even more. What wonderful opportunities teachers have to make a difference within themselves and within others. Thank you for this. (Ditto to Lynn; I hope you don't mind that I plan to share this!)

or [email protected] I agree with what you say. So often as educators we spend our time listening to teachers who don't enjoy teaching. Don't let them rob us of our love and passion for working with students. Positive respect of students will motivate success. Remember one day the student you are kind to just might be taking care of you in a nursing home...

Hanne, thank you for this wonderful insight. As a masters student in TESOL/International Ed. Policy Program, I often get wrapped up in technical terms while taking for granted everyday activities within a school that initially helped me make my decision to become a teacher. Your countdown reminded me once again that there are many dazzling-lecture styles, lively classroom discussions, problem-based exercises, and popular field research and projects which we as teacher can chose from in order to produce important educational results. Thank you!

Every job is about staying positive!
We don't like taking a wksp. or college class where the professor is bored-do we?
For my evaluation coming up,I had to plan ahead for 2 weeks...a basic plan & it has helped my motivation quite a bit even though I had to change 2 days because of state testing.
DISCUSSIONS in class help us succeed as educators also-it isn't just for honors.Kids WANT to be heard.BE firm ,but very caring-I have not had to write up any problem kids by giving them more positive attention in this way.(18 yr teacher)

As always, I'm just so impressed with your insight, thougths and courage to say what others think....follow your heart, your dreams and your desire to make the school house a better place

Hanne,not only as a teacher but to any other job, many of the skills we know coming into a job are not considered worthwhile unless you have a certificate to prove your knowledge. However consider my plight: I have worked for this school system for 18 years beginning as a substitute - that for 5 years and only the last one counted toward retirement. I was hired as a paraeducator at which I have been employed ever since. I am finishing my second masters. I have applied for nearly every teaching job for which I am qualified in this school system. Initially, there were family reasons to remain with the system/area, but those no longer apply. Now, it is probably too late to move as I am nearing 60. I am teaching at a college, but they are not paying toward retirement either for adjuncts. Retiring on less than $500 a month if I retire after 66 and working for this school system (at that point for 25 years)and a college seems rather pathetic. Thank Heaven for husbands who worked in factories that at this time still provide some retirement for the spouse.

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Recent Comments

  • Sue: Hanne,not only as a teacher but to any other job, read more
  • Tom: As always, I'm just so impressed with your insight, thougths read more
  • Carole: Every job is about staying positive! We don't like read more
  • Zeljka Radovic: Hanne, thank you for this wonderful insight. As a masters read more
  • Pat Owens: or [email protected] I agree with what you say. So often read more




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