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Happy habits: SEL matters more than ever

Happy habits: SEL matters more than ever

Establishing and maintaining happy habits leads to students--and teachers--who feel supported, empowered, and capable

“My hope is these extra couple of days will allow everyone to take a little extra time for themselves and their families. Family is, after all, much of what Thanksgiving is all about.”

–Dr. Kelvin R. Adams, Superintendent of Schools, St. Louis Public Schools

Like St. Louis, school districts across the country opted to add an additional partial or entire week off during the holiday season/winter break to allow the students and adults to find time for and take care of themselves.

While the decision was controversial for working parents who struggled to find last-minute childcare, it poses a larger question: Are school districts prepared to not just care for students who are struggling with returning to the classroom, but can they also support the needs of their adults during what has been the most trying two years in education?

The facts are clear: Teachers are leaving the industry in droves. According to a study by The Brookings Institution, “in March 2021, 42 percent of teachers declared they have considered leaving or retiring from their current position during the last year. Of these, slightly more than half say it was because of COVID-19.”

But it’s not solely due to the pandemic, the same study indicates. “Teachers nearing the retirement age were as likely as younger teachers to report having considered leaving or retiring for reasons other than COVID-19.”

The issue is not just germane to education. As a business leader, it’s becoming more and more challenging to meet the needs of our team members. Keeping team members connected to the organization – and their colleagues – in a remote world is a challenge. Which makes retention a challenge. All the while, hiring new team members is now tougher and more costly than ever.

So how do we, collectively, create an environment in our schools and businesses that cultivates happy habits?

This Happy Habit checklist is one of the many resources  that can help educators think about their own social and emotional wellbeing and practice methods of improvement. 

After a short walk to my mailbox and a check in the box, I used these few simple ideas as a thought starter to ask my LinkedIn network for additional habits they use to improve their state of happiness during the work day.

Here’s what they shared:

  • Hug someone every day. –Jim Boston, Director of Programs & Development at Your Children’s Bookshelf
  • Get outside and walk. –Dorothy Toth, Creative Director, Marketing Consultant
  • Move my body every day, watch videos of my granddaughter; treat people with kindness. –Maureen Regan, Account Executive, Johnson Controls
  • H2O, walking every day, eating healthy, and celebrating life with my husband and family. Sunshine and warmth are also important. –Carole Peters, Former Executive Director, United Way of Greater McHenry County
  • Get your body moving! –Taylor Wright, Enterprise Sales, Lexmark
  • Music! I can’t sing, but there’s something about belting out a favorite song while I drive that always improves my mood. (I can’t vouch for what it does to the moods of the people who happen to hear me, though. . .) –Jennifer Zimmerman, Business Development Representative, A Pass Educational Group
  • Do something nice for a person in need or speak to somebody who needs a kind word. –Fred Harvey, Director Inside Sales, Baker & Taylor
  • Go for a run outside or near the ocean! –Connie Francini, Performance Coach, Clarity Consulting
  • Walk and reflection (includes gratitude) –Aman Kochar, CEO, Baker & Taylor
  • Don’t just think about someone you care about, tell them! –Ian Singer, CEO, Library Pass

Apparently, my network likes to walk a lot! As educators, you are on your feet all day, so a walk may not be entirely appealing. But even if you’re not into walking, each of these happy habits are doable for most of us… except for the run near the ocean since I live in the middle of Northern Illinois!

I thought I’d share my own happy habits and gratitude checklist:

  • A cold December morning run while listening to the latest Louise Penny audiobook
  • A walk to the mailbox in the middle of writing this article
  • Drinking my favorite vanilla hot tea
  • And today I’m grateful for an opportunity to have dinner with a friend since pre-school
  • I’ll take a breather for silent reflection after I finish the article!

While all of us are doing more with less and navigating situations that seemingly change daily, we must remember we have control of our outlook. As a business leader, I know happy team members are more productive and as a result, we get more books in the hands of students. Which means happy teachers and librarians will produce happier, healthier, and more successful students… which is the box we all want to check.

Let’s encourage each other to focus on the social-emotional care we need for ourselves – not just our students. Visit this Happy Habit checklist for more!

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Britten Follett
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