In a rut? You’re not alone. A recent study showed that 76% of employed Americans report feelings of burnout. And if you’re feeling it, there’s a good chance it’s impacting the classroom despite best efforts to leave personal life at home.
For those of us in education, the ‘new year’ typically begins in August or September when students begin in new schools or age into new ones. This year, consider making a new year’s resolution to put the drain of the pandemic behind, look ahead, and find joy again. Where to begin? Wündercare has some ideas!
10 ideas for bringing happy back:
We all know that happy equals healthy. Ready, set, smile!
Your classroom will only be as joyful as its teachers. That means to bring joy in, you have to radiate joy out. It’s important to start your day off on the right foot so you can share happiness with colleagues and students. This might mean centering yourself through mindfulness and deep breathing, or finding a routine that lifts your mood – treat yourself to fancy coffee or your favorite breakfast treat, blast your favorite songs on your commute, and consider other ways to find your joy throughout the day for sustained cheer.
Put decorations around the classroom to serve as visual reminders of your commitment to finding more happiness at work. It could be as simple as word art with “JOY,” “HAPPINESS,” and “SMILE” on them. You may prefer pictures of your favorite places, travel destinations that are on your bucket list, or tons of tiny kittens. Whatever it is that will prompt you to regroup and find joy. This can even be an art project with your student – have them create pictures of their favorite things or animals and hang them up, so your students have those visual cues too.
Children making music can be both delightful and terrifying, and it all depends on your mindset. Make a decision to embrace the auditory chaos and hand out a variety of easy-to-use musical instruments. This also can serve as a fun classroom craft activity, as instructions for hand-made instruments abound online. Tell the children it’s time for band class and let them make as much noise as they like. Just make sure it isn’t naptime in any neighboring classrooms, and go bananas!
Dance It Out
Did you know that science backs the fact that dancing leads to happiness? Dancing releases endorphins to create feelings of relaxation, fun, and comfort. If you’ve had enough of the child-directed concerto, it might be time to fire up the Bluetooth speakers with some dance tunes and have an impromptu disco party. Look for classic anthems of happiness, like Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves, Happy by Pharrell Williams, and I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas. Then delight in the novel ways your children bust their moves.
Switch Up Story Time
Tired of the same old stories? There’s probably a dozen or so books you’ve read a million times and know by heart. Bring a novel twist to storytime by letting the children lead. They can take turns “reading” the books by describing the pictures, or you can lead them through storytelling activities that engage their creativity. Look up improv games or simply narrate the beginning of a familiar story and have each child add what they think would happen next. You can even make it a project to help each of them create their own book.
Get Out Into Nature… Or Bring It In
Spending time outdoors is a well-known antidote for stress, and its many benefits are well-documented. While camping in the woods or hiking a mountain on school time is unlikely, natural elements are always available. If your daycare center has enough property, explore your outdoor surroundings to examine plants and trees and look for bugs, birds, and frogs. If you don’t have natural space to explore, bring nature in. You can grow plants from seeds that the students can then bring home. Invite a pet hamster or snake to visit for a day and, if allergies aren’t an issue, look into a visit from a therapy dog.
Appreciation goes a long way, and expressing gratitude leads to positive emotions. Take some time to appreciate each of your students and what makes them special. You can even recognize their unique talents and traits in a little ceremony and create custom ribbons or badges to celebrate them. Most enthusiastic, kindest, most artistic, there are endless ways to make children feel good about themselves and acknowledging them will make for more joyful children.
Get silly. Christmas sweaters in July. Hawaiian shirts in winter. Rainbow day. Crazy hat day. You get the idea. Anything that will bring a smile to your face and to that of your children. Ask parents to dress their children in keeping with the theme to the extent it is convenient for them. Then build the days’ programs, snacks, stories, and crafts around a theme and have fun planning and executing it. If you want to up the stakes, challenge your coworkers to a most creative theme day competition or compete to have the most creative execution of the same theme.
Follow the Little Leaders
If you’re still in need of ideas for how to bring joy into the classroom, ask the people who spend almost as much there as you do: your students. Find out what their favorite things to do at home are and bring them into the daycare. If they’re old enough to understand, you can even put each one “in charge” of a joy activity on different days and have them choose a game to play or a craft to do. If COVID regulations don’t preclude visitors, you can also bring in parents as “mystery readers” or craft leaders.
Share the Joy
Talk to the children about the people who have helped them and the people who help out in society, like firefighters and nurses. You can also consider people who might be lonely, like nursing home residents. Then work together to prepare care kits, thank you cards, or anything else that might make someone else happy. Sometimes giving feels even better than getting.
Joy is infectious and can make a huge difference in your day and in the experience your students have while in your care. By taking a little time to evaluate your mindset and turn it towards creating happiness in as many ways as possible, you’ll be setting yourself up for a fantastic ‘new year’ this fall!
We also have one more bonus tip for you. To start the “new year” off right, consider a new app. Wündercare has tons of ways to make your work easier and nothing makes us more joyous than simplifying your day so you can focus on the “happy”!