LG and Discovery Education want to help you discover your happy. Through a series of guest blog posts, we’ll cover topics from the science behind happiness to how to make the most of the Discover Your Happy resources. This month, guest blogger Gary Nadeau, an educator at Westfield Technical Academy, shares how he is putting the Six Sustainable Happiness Skills into action as an educator.
Gary and students from Westfield Technical Academy are also featured in the Discover Your Happy Virtual Field Trip, which takes students on a journey to understand how happiness is a learnable skill that can be achieved through the Six Sustainable Happiness Skills.
By Gary Nadeau
“Wow, do we need this!” That was my reaction when I first watched the Discover Your Happy Virtual Field Trip. I have been a classroom teacher for 15 years, and the level of ‘happy’ that I see among our young people is progressively declining. That is what makes initiatives like this so critical for our classrooms. I have often asked my students, “What is the one thing that everyone wants, whether he/she is one year old or 90 years old?” The answer we always come to is… to be happy.
Discovery Education has come up with an incredible platform for all educators to work with. The Six Sustainable Happiness Skills are an excellent way for students to work on their levels of happiness, and “Discover Their Happy.” I believe, as educators and parents, it is our job to teach young people how to cultivate happiness. It may sound strange to hear, but being happy is a skill; it takes knowledge and effort, and it can be taught by using the Six Sustainable Happiness Skills; Mindfulness, Positive Outlook, Generosity, Gratitude, Human Connection, Purpose.
Here is how I have applied them.
I start with mindfulness. I use a mindfulness start up exercise in my classroom, and it has an incredibly positive impact on my students. I simply call it a breathing exercise. I ring a bell and have them focus only on their breath as it goes in and out of their lungs. I do this for 2 minutes at the start of all of my classes. I then go directly into my lesson, and the students are quiet and attentive.
Once my students have an appreciation for the mindfulness practices, I explain how the other skills can be used to promote happiness in their own lives. I explain that being in the present moment, and paying attention, helps us to experience exactly what is going on right now. When we do this with a positive outlook, it helps us to notice the beauty around us and it helps us to appreciate these experiences. When we are in the present moment and we are in tune with the needs of others, we demonstrate acts of kindness and generosity. This helps us to feel the warmth of human connection, which in turn brings an experience of gratitude. These things happen in our lives every day, if we are not mindful we miss them. If we are mindful we notice them, and they reinforce our levels of compassion and gratitude. This leads to a positive self image, and a sense of purpose. Happiness is the result.
As a teacher these skills benefit me as well. Using a mindfulness practice helps me to stay present and focused on the needs of my students. It generates a desire to really listen to my students, to tune into their needs as individuals, and understand why they might be struggling with a lesson or demonstrating disruptive behavior. This helps me to be a better teacher by reinforcing the need for patients and understanding. This leads to positive human connection for both myself and my students; something I am grateful for. It makes me appreciate my position as a teacher, and increase my levels of happiness.
Happiness is an overall state of mind, so like other skills, in order for it to take hold it needs to be taught, modeled, and practiced. That is why I like the Virtual Field Trip and the Discover Your Happy program so much. It is an easy-to-implement curriculum that will not take a lot of time out of the school year. This year I plan to show the Virtual Field Trip during the first week of school and have short weekly discussions about the Six Sustainable Happiness Skills. This will encourage my students to practice these skills, because a happy student is a student more susceptible to learning.
Coming up next month: Hear how the Six Sustainable Happiness Skills are Inspiring Action at Sachem East High School. Sign up for updates to be notified of the release of our next Discover Your Happy blog post.