Tuesdays are generally the hardest day of the week for me. Mondays are hard for most, Wednesday is the halfway point, Thursday is “one more day” and Friday, well, TGIF, right?

But today was different.

Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t exactly a banner day. I’m still masked, more of my students are home with Covid, and, well… I could go on. I won’t because it won’t help.

I learned that by listening to a podcast called The Happiness Lab. Somewhere in the first 5-6 episodes or so (I think) Dr. Laurie Santos, the creator, shares research indicating that the happier people are not necessarily the ones who think optimistically, they’re the ones who don’t speak negatively. There’s something about the articulation of negative ideas that makes them more real, more potent, and more persuasive.

So, I’ve been trying not to speak or write negatively for some time now. And it honestly does help. It reminds me of a passage in Life of Pi where Yann Martel writes about fear. It’s one of my favorite passages in all of literature because the narrator shares that if we don’t actually articulate what we’re afraid of, we have no chance whatsoever to begin to cope with it, because we’ve not pulled the fear out of the ether and crystallized it into a thing to be named, and thus able to be reckoned with.

The reason my Tuesday went fairly well was because of one specific class I taught today. It was a session of an elective I created a few years ago now called, Exploring Teaching As A Profession. It’s for high school students interested in learning more about education and the teaching profession, and I love it. My enrollees are always a diverse group of students, and they enjoy getting to talk about the thing they’ve been doing / consuming since they can remember.

We are nearing the end of the semester, and it’s time to start playing around with the concept of a Reform Agenda. To close the semester I have several projects designed to invite students to start putting together their thinking, learning, experience, and dreams into how they might imagine themselves as an educator, and how the public education system could better serve its clients and its goals.

I was grateful to have paper copies of the assignment as I find my students really happy to be able to be off the ChromeBooks of late. Can’t say I blame them. After a brief “brain dump” of all the things they would love to change about school, I distributed sticky notes and asked them to take one of their ideas, write it on the sticky note, and pop it on one of our boards. Next, I asked them to brain dump the things they absolutely love about school. More sticky notes. More posting on a different board. Then, with our sticky notes from earlier in the semester still up (yes, I do love these, especially in pandemic mode because it allows students to put things up without being there long enough to share too much air and without having to share chalk or markers…sigh) from our “Issues in Education 2021 and Beyond” portion of the history of education in America timeline and learning journey, I asked them to go on an observation tour, visiting each of the three stations, and jotting down at least 2-3 ideas of their classmates’ they found intriguing.

Sticky notes. Popped on the boards. In three places. Students up out of their seats. With paper. And pens. And moving and chatting and taking notes and laughing.

My teaching heart immediately began to beat stronger, my smile to get bigger behind my mask, and I swear I am not exaggerating when I say that I was sooooo happy to see this turn of events that I stood on a chair, watched them, and took pictures.

Engagement, discussion, laughing and fun, interaction, movement, talking coming from NOT me, but the opportunity designed BY me.

I would say, “Be still my teaching heart,” but honestly…my teaching heart is suffering from not a little bit of atrophy these last two years. Now, I’ll take it. And I am pleasantly reminded of an infamous line from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

It really doesn’t take a lot to make this teacher happy. Especially on a Tuesday.