Happy Teachers: What THEY have that YOU may be missing.

I’m proud to assert that I am a “Happy Teacher.”

Are you? Are you sure? No matter your answer to my question, I personally challenge you to take this simple Happy Teacher Test. Say this, out loud: “I’m a Happy Teacher. I love what I do and find energizing joy from doing it.”

How did that feel? Natural? Sincere? Maybe a little forced? A total lie? Any of the answers are acceptable, my friend. Years ago, I would have laughed hysterically at the idea of being a “Happy Teacher.” (I’ll elaborate on this a little later.)

Teaching is a mighty feat, there is no denying that. It takes passion and skill, but even with those two influences you are likely to feel burnout. The National Education Association reports that an alarming 40% of new teachers will leave the field within 5 years. A national survey completed in 2017 demonstrated that 61% of teachers reported that their position was often or always stressful. Why is that? Some blame it on high-demands from administration, non-supportive families or impossible to teach standards. Some on low-pay, a lack of professional development or a sparsity of teaching materials. Where do you place the blame?

All of these conditions could be true for you- and most have been true for me- but when I searched deep down I realized they weren’t what prevented me from feeling a fire in my heart and a sense of contentment when teaching. Chaos in my day was plenty enough to prevent that.

I was sooo burnt out.

Many years ago, before I discovered my path to Teacher Happiness, my own classroom was a place of dread and frustration. I had finally become a real-life Teacher, an objective I had worked so hard for. Still yet, I felt this massive sense of regret every day. I ADORED my sweet students and had a deep passion for the content I was teaching them, but something was missing. I was incredibly unsatisfied to the point of daily tears. I blubbered to my husband night after night, “I just can’t do it. It’s too hard! I can’t live like this.”  

Fight or Flee?

Thankfully, my Momma didn’t raise no quitter so I put my running shoes away and bought a pair of boxing gloves. (Ha!) Two major points helped me reach this resolve: 1.) Teaching positions in my district were extremely scarce at the time and I was truly fortunate to have landed a job. I knew if I resigned, I’d never get another opportunity. 2.) I also had an enormous amount of debt from college glaring at me. I had to make that debt worth it.

So, I resolved to ride it out and asked myself a critical question: “Why am I so miserable when I know other Teachers who are sincerely happy?” Of course I was new and lacked experience, but I had more passion than many of the Teachers I had come to know. Still, I knew awesome Teachers who were passionate AND happy. If those people could be content and enjoy their school day (even after years and years of this torture), why couldn’t I?  

So, I wisely decided to take a close look at those who I found to be genuinely happy in this field. I became obsessive about searching for their secrets. What made them happy? What did their classroom look like? What were the common factors between them? What separated me from their “happy teacher” status? After months of questions, online research and informal interviews with the happiest Teachers I could find, I cultivated some interesting findings.

What is a Happy Teacher?

Before I go any further, let’s get some clarity around my use of the term “Happy Teacher” because your definition may not align. In my perspective, a “Happy Teacher” is different than a general “Happy Person.” A Happy Teacher resonates excitement, passion, vigor and joy regarding their profession. A happy person may be content in their position, but are they truly flourishing and joyful when in the parameters of their classroom? Here are some of the overlying traits I find relevant when describing a “Happy Teacher.”

  • Often joyful, zealous and engaged when discussing their work.
  • Confident in their abilities but seek growth.
  • Engaged with their school and community.
  • Encourage others with their support and expertise.

Variations among the Happiest Teachers

Before we come to a conclusion here, it’s important to first understand the HUGE variations between “Happy Teachers.” Besides a relentless happiness in their job, they actually have VERY LITTLE in common.

Here are just a few differences that I discovered.

Educational preparation and degree attainment have little to do with happiness. A Master’s Degree (or higher) doesn’t denote whether a teacher is successful at what they do. The prestige of the college also has no clear indication about happiness.

Work experience is a small indicator, but has no guarantee. More years does not equal more happiness. (Besides, some of the most miserable teachers I know have taught a looonggg time, right?)

There is no winning behavior management system or curriculum that creates a happy teacher. All of the Teachers I’ve studied have various methods, but each are equally happy.

-There is literally nothing to be compared when considering the age, intelligence, personality type or any other physical/psychological factor that I could determine.

Every happy teacher I studied is completely unique – except in one common area within their classroom.

The winning factor is…

Call it too simple and absolutely outrageous, but the common denominator I found among dozens of completely different teachers (who are all noticeably happy in their career) is….. the use of consistent CLASSROOM ROUTINES.

Yes, each and every teacher who I found to be genuinely happy in their classroom reported the use and importance of CLASSROOM ROUTINES. That is the difference maker.

My Transformation

Since that pivotal discovery, my classroom and LIFE have shifted dramatically. I continued in my pursuit of happiness by studying the power of routines and how to implement them effectively. When I finally integrated routine effectively, I was HOOKED. With each new routine my classroom became calmer, easier-to-manage and more enjoyable. You know what happened to me as a result? I became HAPPY– and I’ve never stopped improving since.

I can now affirm with complete confidence and honesty that “I am a Happy Teacher! I love what I do and find energizing joy from doing it!” I would literally shout it from the rooftop with no shame (except that I hate public speaking, that is.)

Remember how I mentioned that Happy Teachers want to share their expertise with others? Well… that is why I feel the unrelenting need to share this information with you. You too can share in this magic, Teacher friend.

Next Steps in Your Journey

If you’ve determined that you are like the former me- not exactly “Happy”- I encourage you to implement your first effective classroom routine. If you’re not sure how to do that, jump over to the next post in this series:

CREATE EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ROUTINES IN 5 EASY STEPS

Did you pass the Happy Teacher Test? If you did, you have great knowledge and insight to share! Please post your best piece of Happy TeacherAdvice in the COMMENTS below. You never know who you’ll inspire!

I am so, deeply appreciative of your presence. Thanks for joining me in my thoughts!

God Bless, Y’all.

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