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Happiness in School

Rabbi Tarfon, in Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, had a famous teaching: “The day is short, the work is much… the reward is great, and the Master is pressing”. On Fridays, even when the day is indeed short (and getting shorter as the season changes), there is so much going on in the school, and if you don’t stop to pay attention, you’ll miss the magic. In the words of the inimitable Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I wanted to share with you a few thoughts on things I noticed today, through the prism of a post written by Elena Aguilar, a Transformational Leadership Coach from Oakland, California, in the website Edutopia (a great education resource that has the added cool factor of being funded entirely by the George Lucas Educational Foundation). In her post called Simple Ways to Cultivate Happiness in Schools, Ms. Aguilar shares some suggestions for actions that school leaders and teachers can take in order to cultivate happier schools, which positively affects the quality and quantity of the learning taking place, and makes for a school environment that produces happy, well-adjusted children. She lists seven suggestions:

1. Slow Down
2. Get Outside
3. Move Your Body
4. Blast Good Music
5. Sing
6. Smile
7. Incorporate Quiet Time

I am so proud to say that all day today, I have seen elements of each of these seven in our school. I have watched teachers take extra time to help students with math questions, or welcome in Shabbat with a class in a peaceful, meditative environment, candles glowing and faces shining. I joined students outside during recess, breathing in the fresh, crisp air, and dodged smiling kids running around the playground, playing all sorts of sports and games. Throughout the day, as I sat in my office, I felt the muffled thump thump sounds of Mr. Somers and his grade 7 band practice through the walls, and heard the familiar strains of Shalom Aleichem being sung by the students in iCare and RJDS. Smiles of encouragement and happiness are shared by students and teachers alike, and you see the laughter in the creases of the smiles of the little ones. And I’ll end my observations with the countless moments of quiet, reflective study and reading that I see during the day, and in the priceless moments of students as they cover their eyes as Shma is chanted or as Shabbat candles are lit.

And that’s just Fridays.

Shabbat Shalom u’mevorach.

Mar Abba

 

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