Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Happy Classroom

As I watched this student share about his school experience, I couldn't help but wonder why we can't give every student the opportunity to be happy in the traditional school environment.  I asked myself why we aren't teaching students to be happy and healthy and what I as a teacher can do to ensure that my students are receiving the opportunity to be creative.

If you have read any of my blog posts, you know that we recently started Genius Hour in my classroom.  I honestly feel like this has given my students the opportunity to find what makes them happy and use creativity to explore their passions.  I am so thankful for my PLN because without them, I still would not know about Genius Hour and the impact that it has on learning.

Since allowing my students to be creative, I have noticed major changes in their ability to share, reflect, and create.  Just today, one of my students shared her one word for 2014 on her blog.  In reading her words, I realized that they have a desire to make a difference.  They long to change their world in ways that we can't even imagine.

I have spent the last few weeks taking in all that I can about finding ways to encourage this type of learning in my classroom.  I have been forever changed as a teacher as I have read the amazing things that people are using in their classrooms to give their students the best learning experience possible in spite of testing expectations and other challenges that are present in the traditional classroom.

I recently stumbled upon the 7 Habits of Healthy Kids.  I know these have been around for awhile and I had seen them before, but for the first time was compelled to use them in my classroom.  I think it was because of my new ensure that my students are happy and exploring their passions in creative ways.

If you haven't seen these before, you can check them out here.  I printed out posters and posted them in our classroom so that we would see them every day.  We will be focusing on one habit each week and learning how to put that habit into practice.  If you would like a copy of the 7 Habits posters for your wall, I found a freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Check it out HERE.

I also read Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maiers and was inspired to implement these into our classroom as well.  Reading this book had a huge impact on my desire to change the way that I was teaching.  The book addresses habits/attitudes that give students the skills they need to be 21st century learners.  Understanding the importance of these skills has also given me the the tools that I need to ensure that students are happy and exploring their passions in creative ways.

I think I will always refer to this part of my teaching career as my awakening.  While I always knew that I needed to be doing more and giving more to my students, it wasn't until now that I realized how I wanted to do that.  I am still learning every day and definitely have days when it's hard and I want to throw in the towel.  However, reading blog posts like the one above reminds me that what I am doing is what my students need.  Watching them work on their Genius Hour projects with passion and drive gives me the boost I need to carry on and stay the course.  I can't wait to see what is still to come!

When was your awakening as an educator?  Have you had that moment yet when you realize what it is that you REALLY want for your students and how you are going to go about sharing it with them?  If you haven't, I would encourage you to take some time to do just that.  Happy students make for a happy teacher which in turn creates a happy classroom.  What will you do to create your happy classroom?


  1. Andi,
    Genius Hour, letting students decide what they want to learn... that was my awakening. I have totally switched gears now as a result. Students make many of the decisions in our room (another difference - it's OUR room, not mine), and I take on much more of the facilitator role. I do believe it is an avenue to better teaching... (My spiel on it here: I believe the students are actually doing more work than I am now - which is how they will learn better!

    I think you're going to come to a difficult part in your school, now.... Getting others to latch on - to try to step outside their box. It might be tough, but if you can do it with ONE other teacher (I did!), it can spread easier (it did!!). I still wish for more, but we've got four teachers at our school now trying Genius Hour, and one other who uses many of the aspects of it in her class (it just doesn't have a name, because it's spread throughout her science curriculum). To help change a teacher's perspective is huge. Don't get bummed when it's very tough. Just keep plugging.

    Thank you so very much for sharing your excitement! "Difference" is a great word, and I put Steven Covey's book on my wish list! ;-)

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement, Joy! I met with two teachers on Friday to share Genius Hour and how I think it could be beneficial in their classroom. They were very receptive and I think want to learn more about it. So that's exciting!

      I also have talked to a couple of teachers and administrators from other districts about Genius Hour and hope to talk to them more as well.

      I just can't help but want to share GH and the impact it has had on my students. And we've only been doing it a short time! Hoping my excitement is contagious and others will want to try it in their classroom as well.

      So thankful for all of the GH folks on Twitter...I can't say that enough!