My last class of the day is Spanish 1. It's really small, just 14 ninth graders. During class each day I try to make sure that I speak repeatedly with each of them, both about class topics and about personal ones. As class began on the first day after Christmas vacation, I circulated the room checking materials (more on this in a subsequent post), and inquiring about the students' vacation and current condition.
Carmen still hasn't let down her guard and doesn't fully trust me yet. Sometimes I see a little relaxing, but most of the time her defenses are high, her answers are terse, and her attitude is combative. When I approached her desk, she showed me her materials, handed me two late assignments, and asked,
"Why are you always so happy?"
Quickly I responded, "I love my job and I love my students. Why wouldn't I be happy?"
She shook her head and didn't say anything back to me, though when I walked away I heard her recalling grumpy teachers from her past.
Two days later, the question is still ringing in my ears. Why am I always so happy? I have a lot of answers, mostly borne out of knowing who I am, understanding that I am called to teach, and believing that I have been gifted to do this job. But there is something more:
"Happy" is a Choice.
In today's society, "emotions" are given the right to run lives. People make "snap" decisions, make and break relationships, react and overreact, and allow their emotions to determine what kind of day and attitude they have.
Emotions CANNOT drive our lives. We must employ our minds and bring our emotions under control. It is possible to "BE" happy without "FEELING" happy.
When I begin each of my classes, I deliberately choose to begin with a positive attitude. I choose to greet my students in an uplifting manner, regardless of what he or she might have done the day before. (*Disclaimer: I have had days when I did not present a positive attitude; but students will remember the way things usually are.)
I am not always happy. Some days I struggle with debilitating headaches, and on other days I am sad, worried, angry, frustrated, preoccupied, etc. But I CHOOSE to be happy. And usually my choices actually impact my feelings, and I am happy.
Some of my students live in a whirlwind of emotional choices and reactions. They don't reign in their emotions, and they don't experience family or friends doing this either. It is yet another part of their lives that lacks any self-control.
Perhaps my consistency will impact some of them. Perhaps I need to find a way to explain it to Carmen, and to my other students. Could I convince them that "Happy" is a choice? How can I teach them to choose their emotions?