Category Archives: Social and Emotional Learning

Madame Corinne’s Happiness Project

Standard
Madame Corinne’s Happiness Project

A Happiness Project taught in a classroom in France brings happiness to a classroom in Spain and to me! Two students taking “The Science of Happiness” course given by the University of California Berkeley were unaware that their paths would happily cross and be mutually beneficial.

My new friend, Madame Corinne, a caring teacher in France to six and seven year old creative students and I connected when Madame Corinne did a Google search and found “My Happy”.  Madame Corinne was kind enough to leave a comment sharing that she was a teacher in France. After reading her comment I was eager to ask Madame Corinne if she would like a copy of That Makes Me Happy! I noticed that her e-mail address came up with her comment on the “My Happy” comment page. I thought about sending her an e-mail, then decided not to. Yes, self-doubt held me back. In the past I would have simply given in to my self-doubt. Instead, I reminded myself how far I had come since my first blog post. I felt good about the writing, the volunteering,  and the learning. One question I now ask myself when I am presented with an opportunity is: “Why not?” I again found myself looking at Madame Corinne’s e-mail address. This time I e-mailed her. I asked if she would like a copy of my story to read to her class. Madame Corinne was so kind to say yes! She was already planning a wonderful Happiness Project for her new class and the story fit right in.

Madame Corinne began her new school year by focusing her students on happiness. I was very honored that she read “That Makes Me Happy” and had her students make Happy Rings as part of her project. Madame Corinne asked her students to think of “3 small happinesses” each morning. Students created pictures and  posted their drawings to a bulletin board.  Below are the pictures Madame Corinne shared with me. Her students were very creative with the Happy Rings. I especially liked how they personalized them, even the smiley faces! Happy Ring total has now reached 127! I also enjoyed looking at all the pictures on the bulletin board.

img_1767-1 img_1788 img_1789-1

 

Madame Corinne shared her project with a teacher in Spain. Senorita Berta will be teaching her students this happiness project and all the students from each classroom will share their ideas this year! How wonderful!

I was excited I had written that e-mail and in a small way I was apart of these terrific projects. I am still amazed at how simply reaching out has connected me to fellow happiness creators so far from my home. Creating happiness is making a difference to Madame Corinne, Senorita Berta, and their students this year. Madame Corinne’s Happiness Project not only teaches students they can create their happiness, it also teaches students even though we may be living in different countries, we CAN connect, and we CAN make a  POSITIVE difference. Everyone’s ideas are important and we can be happier by sharing them!

Thank you Madame Corinne and Senorita Berta for teaching your students about creating happiness! Thank you for sharing my story. Please thank your students for making Happy Rings!

That Makes Me Happy!

More Pictures 12/5/16

img_1863 img_1864

Summer Reading

Standard
Summer Reading

Happy News

This summer dive into these good reads! While reading a Happy blog (ha ha… yes, many others are sharing their happy stories), I learned about this great newspaper:  “The Happy News”.   A newspaper to celebrate all that’s good in the world…The Happy Newspaper is a platform to share positive news and wonderful people. The line up in this issue was: General News Stories, Everyday Heroes, Celebs/Showbiz, Poems, Lifestyle, Food, Travel, Your Year, New Year Tips, Meet the Writers, From me to You. All written from a positive perspective.

One of my favorite sections included positive news about celebrities. It was great hearing about good news like Pharrell Williams turns ‘Happy’ into a children’s book. Malala Yousafzai, youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize celebrates her 18th birthday by opening an all girls school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Prince Harry and Prince William join BBC home improvement program ‘DIY SOS’ in renovating an abandoned street in Manchester into 26 homes for homeless war veterans. Another section I enjoyed reading was Everyday Heroes. There you can find people and organizations trying to make the world a happier place.  One organization, Free Cakes for Kids UK network is a community organization of volunteer bakers who provide birthday cakes to families who are struggling and find it difficult to provide a cake to their child.   www.freecakesforkids.org/uk  The paper includes many websites and other resources to lift you up.

Emily Coxhead  had the idea to begin a newspaper that “added sunshine to a person’s day”. She and other volunteers collaborated on this fun and enlightening newspaper. To learn more about it or order the next issue go to:  http://www.thehappynewspaper.com

9781611800586_p0_v3_s192x300[1]Sitting Still Like a Frog” Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel is a fun way to encourage children (and their parents) to meditate. Eline Snel is a therapist who has been working with Mindfulness for 20 years, developing training programs. She is the founder of the Academy for Mindful Teaching in Leusden, Netherlands.

Bedtime “shenanigans” led me to try meditation with my children. Does anyone still use that word? I think it is a nice way to explain the silliness that occurs at my children’s bedtime. Sometimes..er..okay a lot lately my little ones have difficulty settling in. Even after their bath and stories, they are still playful. I find having them lay down in their beds and talking them through a relaxation meditation can be very helpful.  “Sitting Still Like a Frog” helps parents and teachers use meditation at various times during the day and it also includes a meditation for bedtime, “Sleep Tight”.

Eline Snel uses the description of a frog to develop an understanding of the importance of stillness.  My children found it interesting and fun.  There are positive reviews from teachers who have used it in their classrooms. You will find an Introduction to Mindfulness, Parenting with Mindfulness, Weathering the Storm Inside, Handling Difficult Feelings, It is Good to Be Kind, to name a few. The book includes a CD of 11 mindfulness practices you can do with your child. Our children LOVE to spend time with us. Sometimes simply role modeling  gets children interested enough to try a new thing. I realized, though my children preferred  my voice over listening to the CD at bedtime. My friend, Kathleen noticed that with her daughter. Familiar voices are the best, of course. Your children may prefer you to do the narrative for the bedtime meditation.

Let me know what YOU think! You can share what you like about the “The Happy Newspaper” or how your children respond to “Sitting Still Like a Frog” by commenting on this post. I would be very interested in your feedback!

Happy Reading!

20160606_185246_001

“That Makes Me Happy!” News

Standard

IMG_20160108_143621217

“That Makes Me Happy!” has really done just that. It has made me happy.  Many of you have been asking how things are going with my children’s book. After the book launch, opportunities for volunteering to share my book and teach the lesson it holds fell into place. Volunteering and focusing on my family filled my time and this blog took a back seat.  Now it is time to catch up.

My enthusiasm for the science of happiness resulted in writing “That Makes Me Happy!” a story that teaches children they can cultivate their own happiness. At the end of the story children can make a “Happy Ring” to practice the strategies which are deep breaths, smiling, and thinking a happy thought.  By reading the story to children, adults can show children we value well-being as much as academics and achievements.

This past school year I volunteered to teach the lesson from my story at my oldest son’s school. As I had read the story in my youngest children’s class the previous school year.  His school had a set time every week to bring health and wellness education to their students. Awesome, right?  The science behind happiness lesson fit right in.  Not ever having taught more than a classroom size of 31 students it was a new experience for me. I was asked to teach the lesson to each grade. There were 100 students in each grade.  Keeping a group that size engaged and interested definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I wished that I could simply read my story and make “Happy Rings” but that wouldn’t fly with these older students (4th, 5th, and 6th graders).  20160802_122551

 

While creating the lesson, I thought back to what really amazed me in the research.  Richard Davidson’s research with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama was top on the list. thRichard Davidson’s research focuses on the brain-emotion connection. When the Dalai Lama heard of his research he urged Richard Davidson to study kindness and compassion. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear.  Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’  Data from brain scans of Tibetan monks were studied. The monks observed had a regime of meditating 8 hours a day, some had done so for 20 years.  The findings led to the understanding that meditative practices and practicing kindness and compassion result in a brain that is more capable of change, in theory becoming more resilient.

“Rather than think of the brain as a static organ, or one that just degenerates with age, it’s better understood as an organ that is constantly reshaping itself, is being continuously influenced, wittingly or not, by the forces around us.”  Richard Davidson 

Brain plasticity, mirror neurons, and calming jars…oh my!   I brought the lesson to life by using student volunteers.  Teaching a group of 100 students was a challenge for me. Did I already say that? Teaching your own class is much different from teaching a large group of students you do not know. Using strategies like positive self-talk, visualizing the lesson going well, deep breaths, and having a growth mindset kept me on track.  I also had support from a few teachers with each grade.  Once I had taught the first group of 100 students, I felt proud of myself and realized it helped me to grow. It felt like such an accomplishment to have taught this lesson to my son and his peers.  Thank you to the staff and students of Proctor Elementary School.

My cousin, Helen, a third-grade teacher was very excited about my story. I offered to read it to her class. In April Saint Joseph’s school welcomed me to share my story with 4 classes, kindergarten, first, second, and third grade! Reading my story, sharing author secrets, and creating “Happy Rings” together created my happy! Seeing the smiles, the interest, receiving inquisitive questions, the excitement about using “Happy Rings” is truly priceless! Thank you to Mrs. Fitzgerald, all the staff and children at Saint Joseph’s school.

My more recent news for “That Makes Me Happy!” is it has traveled overseas! “That Makes Me Happy!” will be read in classrooms in France, India, and possibly Germany!20160802_131341 (1)

 

 

 

“That Makes Me Happy!” is doing just that, making me happy. I hope it is making many people happy. In fact if you have read the story and made “Happy Rings” please e-mail me how many children made the “Happy Rings” at: thatmakesmehappy@yahoo.com.  I will be keeping track of how many are made. So far, there have been a little over 100 Happy Rings made. I look forward to seeing that number grow. I am also happy to have taught over 400 children that they can cultivate their own happiness and a few strategies to begin with: deep breaths, smiling often, and thinking happy thoughts.

Did I imagine all this when I took my first “baby step” which was starting this blog? No, I did not. I knew I wanted to share this wonderful information with friends, family, and especially children. I am glad I found a way using many of the strategies I have been writing about!

Thank you all for reading My Happy, you are a big part of this!

Happy Book Launch

Standard

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ringing the singing bowl to focus our hearing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

patiently waiting

 

my favorite part, reading the story and seeing smiles

my favorite part, reading the story and seeing smiles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My friend, Margit has supported every step of my happiness journey and made these cookies for the book launch. She hand did each face!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

smiles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think these cookies stole the show! 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Happy drawings!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Getting to write special messages was so fun!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Margit’s cookies made everyone smile

untitledThis photo was taken at the next reading I did for story time at our library during vacation week. We used masks to act out the story. So cute!

 

 

We had a very happy book launch at my town’s library, thank you to all the librarians and a special thank you to Lindsey and Becky! Celebrating with my family and friends always makes me happy.  I always know I can depend on them to be as happy as I am to come together and celebrate, especially for something they know means so much to me.  A number one priority to creating your happiness is to strengthen your social connections. I hope they know how much I appreciate their support, especially at my happy book launch. Sharing “That Makes Me Happy!” and making Happy Rings with my family and friends was truly one of the happiest days I have ever had.

Twenty-five families attended and listened to the reading of “That Makes Me Happy!”.  All the children were terrific listeners and participants. The event was also attended by  Alison, a reporter from our local newspaper.  I look forward to reading the article and seeing the pictures. There was so much going on and I wished I could have chatted more and been able to talk to each child about their drawings. During the book launch children made their happy thought circles and then added it to a Happy Ring to take home. My friend Kim shared with me that her son’s happy thought was me! I was very surprised and almost cried! How sweet was that!James and Tiffany

It was also very heartwarming when one friend shared her enthusiasm for the “Happy Rings” and how her sons have been able to have fun using them for calming strategies. She was very kind to post this comment on “My Happy”:

“That Makes Me Happy! was read in my son’s preschool class and he loved it! He was excited to share with the family the Happy Ring he had created. To this day, I use the techniques described in the book and the Happy Ring as calming strategies for both of my boys. They always end up smiling and laughing with each other. Tiffany, I am so happy to share in your special day tomorrow as you launch the book. Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment!” Amy

It was also important to me to explain some of the great research that led to my motivation to write “That Makes Me Happy!”. First, I explained the work of Richard Davidson. Richard Davidson is a neuroscientist and emotional specialist. At a recent conference hosted by The Mind and Life Institute, Davidson talked about his center’s work in the field of contemplative neuroscience.  He says one of the most important insights this work is leading us to is: we can train for well-being. “It is the neuroscientific evidence particularly which shows us that the circuits in the brain that are important to underlying well-being exhibit plasticity–it changes as a consequence of experience and as a consequence of training.  We know that the brain is constantly being changed, wittingly or unwittingly.”  “We can all take responsibility for our own brains and we can shape our own brains in ways that are more positive and can lead to the cultivation of well-being.”

Read more about Richard Davidson’s work at: http://www.centerhealthyminds.org

Next, I shared the information about the course given by UC Berkeley, “The Science of Happiness”. Not only does this course cover all the latest research in positive psychology, it also teaches students happiness practices to cultivate well-being.  Although it is a 10 week course, if you are not taking it to earn credit, you have the materials for six months and may take it at your own pace.  Between the discussion groups and Facebook page there is opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. Simply hearing the stories of others looking to learn more about positive well-being is very uplifting.

Read more at http://www.greatergoodsciencecenter.org

Local organizations that support SEL in other ways are

Home

http://www.friendshipconnectiononline.com/

http://www.artfullifecenter.org/

Home

http://www.mindfulschools.org

 

Lastly, I organized a “Happiness Bundle” for my town library. I have pictured the books I included below. I tried to think of everyone, whether you are an avid reader, a magazine flipper, a movie watcher or a parent looking for children’s books about happiness. I feel like this is the best grouping of books that I have read in the sea of new happiness books. If you live in my area, I hope you get  chance to borrow some of these finds. 🙂 If you are not, your own library may have some of these titles. If not, you can ask them if they could get them in.

IMG_20160222_093807354_HDR

 

As you can see I have a lot to share! The title “That Makes Me Happy!” truly describes what all this is about, Creating My Happy! I hope that it also Creates YOUR Happy!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this day so HAPPY! 🙂 A special thank you to Olivia for taking pictures at the book launch and Lois for taking pictures at the story time. Thank you to Margit for the delicious custom cookies and to Alex, my excellent assistant at the launch.

 

Kindergarteners Talk About Mindfulness in ‘Just Breathe’ Short Film | Mindful

Standard

Kindergarteners Talk About Mindfulness in ‘Just Breathe’ Short Film | Mindful.

Please take a moment to be inspired! Click on the above link to watch a video at http://www.mindful.org

Here’s My Mix!

Standard

calendar - Copy - Copy“My Happy” began as a place for me to organize helpful information that has become an important part of my life. My experiences have led me to appreciate all that brings positivity my way. I strive to share the things that have made a significant difference to me and my family. This post will explain my (always evolving) positive strategies I use with my family. You may see other strategies I have posted previously on the Parent/Caregivers Page.

Strategies may change as my children get older, I learn new information, or if the strategies stop working. There are various ways to help support children. I began as a teacher, searching for the best behavior management practices for my class. As a parent, I continued to learn as many different approaches that I could. The important realizations for me were:  being mindful, keeping a balance, practicing, and being  flexible.  Not one approach works best, it is using a mix of them that really makes the difference. Also, knowing when to be flexible by changing or dropping something that isn’t working.  Here is what is in my “mix”!

Mindful to create a positive, caring, loving and supportive environment:

Lots of hugs, kisses, and a growth mindset….. goes without saying 😉

Family Mission Statement was my latest way to give our family an idea of what is expected and appreciated in our family.  I decided to do this after learning more about Emotional Intelligence.  It is similar to the “family rules” I have previously posted; however it is more about what we want to focus on daily.  Together, we discussed what mission statements are and then decided what we wanted it to look like. Our family decided on the following:

 

Family Mission Statement

  •  Look for “happy” (positives)
  • Kind and caring
  • Be a helper
  • Have “everyday bravery”
  • Be thankful
  • Be a problem solver
  • Try your best

“Happy, Healthy, Strong”

 

We read it out loud once a day and display it where everyone can see it. I used a bullet format to make it easier for my children to understand. Older children could decide whether they want it to read like an actual statement. We also ended it with what has turned into our family “cheer”, happy, healthy, strong. This began as an affirmation I wanted to share with my children and they like saying it so much, we use it all the time.

“Everyday Bravery” was taken from the work of Rachel Simmons.  Rachel Simmons explains that it is not just heroes in movies who are brave, we are brave every day. Children may see being brave as: going to school and rising to challenges there, beginning a new anything, maybe even trying a new food. knowing they can tackle these smaller challenges will help them to become braver and braver, more able to tackle whatever new challenges come their way.

http://www.rachelsimmons.com

calendar - Copy - Copy (2)

Positive Rewards

I have used reward charts, stickers, homework passes, lunch with teacher, and more. I find this works well to recognize good behavior or to motivate learning something new, such as potty training. Rewarding in this way is effective for a specific period of time. Another example would be earning stickers for 7 days in a row to receive the privilege of picking the movie for movie night.  These rewards also worked well with students because it was only be for one school year. When you are a parent or caregiver, these positive reinforcements do not always stay effective. Reward charts are available free online. Instead of stickers, kids can color the squares in.

Earning privileges

Instead of punishing by taking away a toy or activity, we remind the kids that they earn their privileges by being a cooperative part of the family. Paying attention to the family mission statement (or rules), doing chores, homework, and being responsible. We usually say that they are earning their privileges for the next day.

Choices

I give my children choices when I can. They have learned that they can’t always have a choice. It helps them to be more flexible.

calendar

Calendar

We keep a monthly calendar to help the kids see the “big picture”. This helps our family stay on track as far as our weekly activities and it is a great way to help each member of the family see that everyone is getting choice time.  My older son was constantly saying  our weekend activities revolved around what his younger siblings wanted to do, not what he wanted to do. Having a calendar with weekend plans helped him to see the “big picture” and that he was getting his choice, too. We also color code the kids’ choices to make it easy for them to see their “picks”.

chore chart - Copy (3)

Chore Chart

This has helped my older son keep track of all his responsibilities. I found a white board at Target that has the chart on it. My son filled in the chores, which he liked. He also likes checking things off when he’s done with each chore. He feels proud to see all those  checks at the end of the week. (This is also how he earns his allowance.)

Affirmations

“Happy, Healthy, Strong”    I sometimes request this at some point during the day. We have been saying it for so long my children usually bring it up before me, now.

“Safe, Cooperative, Kind, and Friendly”    I began this when my  younger children were 2 and 1/2 years old. I would ask them to say it before we got out of the car. It helped them to stay safe when we were out and about. Now, it reminds them that these expectations are always important wherever we are going.

Deep Breaths

We practice this daily to calm or focus. After practicing this daily, it has become more natural for them to do.  I knew this was working when my children began reminding me to take a deep breath when they saw I needed to. 🙂 Which usually makes me laugh, leading me to my next strategy.

calendar - Copy

Humor

Whenever possible! Silly dances, mistakes on purpose, jokes….

(This is not to say my family and I are doing all of the above perfectly, but we are making good efforts! )

What’s in your “mix”?

I would love to hear from you! Please leave me a comment or e-mail me.

Social and Emotional Learning

Standard

 

This video, 5 Keys to Social-Emotional Learning Success, was shared from Edutopia’s YouTube channel. I thought this video would be helpful in understanding SEL.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is happening in the U.S.,  China, the UK, and Singapore! Some of my friends get excited about new technology, some get excited about new fashion trends, others get excited about the latest music…I get excited about social-emotional learning!!!

Validated by research, social-emotional learning is shown to enhance academic success as it actually reduces stress levels in that pursuit. It prevents negative behaviors and gives students the “soft skills” they will need to flourish in today’s work environments.  It also promotes positive relationships and attitudes about school, and in general.

Studies with toddlers show that we really are “born to be good”.  In his book Born to Be Good, UC Berkeley professor (and Greater Good Science Center Director) Dacher Keltner discusses our natural tendency to be good.  Keltner makes the case based on research in psychology, sociology, and neuroscience that we are also wired for good. More specifically, he looks at the science of emotions and how positive emotions such as compassion and awe are contagious—and help to bring out the good not only in ourselves, but in others as well. (Taken from:  Social-Emotional Learning: Why Now?  by: Vicki Zakrzewski Ph.D.)

SEL cultivates our self-awareness.  Focusing on understanding our emotions, positive and negative, to help us navigate the classroom, workplace, our relationships and the decisions we make in life.

Again (if you are a regular here at “My Happy”), positive emotions such as gratitude, tranquility, love and joy expand our hearts and minds which helps us to share and connect with the people in our lives and increase our learning potential. Also, as I have previously mentioned, there are times everyone experiences negative emotions and difficult experiences, however, our children will be better equipped to handle those times with this kind of learning.

I have created an SEL page where I have taken information from various sources to explain what SEL is and why it should be a priority in our homes, schools and communities. I also included websites where you can find more information. Take a look at the Social and Emotional Learning Page to learn more about it. 

 

I would love to hear about what you think! You can write a comment or e-mail me at tiffanylynne_14@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

Got Emotional Intelligence?

Standard

EIMy family and I practice our EI skills regularly.  This is something I encourage you to take time for. Please be sure to do a “self-check” before your try to teach it to your kids or the people in your life. Expecting your children to learn and use these skills only works if you “Lead By Example”.  We are role models to everyone around us.  Trying to improve and strengthen your emotional intelligence will help your children or the people you are closest to.  The following is practical information to begin learning and strengthening your Emotional Intelligence.

 

“Emotional Intelligence is the set of abilities that helps us get along in life with other people in all kinds of situations.”  ~Maurice H. Elias, Ph.D.    Rutgers University

Emotional intelligence is a wide range of skills that children (and adults) can develop and improve.  Developing and improving these skills are critical for emotional well-being and life success.

The following are social and emotional skills to focus on:

  • happiness and optimism
  • self-regard (self-compassion)
  • emotional self-awareness
  • assertiveness
  • independence
  • self-actualization
  • empathy
  • social responsibility
  • interpersonal relationship
  • flexibility
  • problem solving
  • stress tolerance
  • impulse control
  • conflict resolution

Please note, happiness and optimism are at the top of this list.  It is my opinion that they should be.  If we focus on happiness and optimism we will be strengthening many of the other skills on this list. “My Happy” is full of ideas to strengthen your happiness and optimism.  Many of my posts discuss self-awareness. We need to be aware of our thoughts and realize we can control them and choose to be positive. Using positive thinking can improve other skills.  Take flexibility for instance. I realized that I have difficulty with this at times. In fact, I can really get annoyed  when plans change at the last-minute.  My initial reaction was to become upset and react negatively (grumpiness, I know, hard to believe..ha ha).  After realizing I did this, I had more control over it. Now when something happens that forces me to be flexible (when I don’t want to) I still may initially react negatively, but I can usually catch myself and change my attitude. 🙂 My improvement happened as a result of  practicing positive thinking which contributed to my being a more flexible thinker.

Learning and improving these skills is important for everyone. Not only does it improve your social and emotional well-being, it leads to a more successful life.  This is a topic that I have wanted to share with others, especially caregivers because I know the value of these skills for children. Not only does it help children do well socially and emotionally, it increases learning potential.

As I continued my research in this area, I found CASEL. The Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning, based at the University of Illinois at Chicago, seeks to enhance children’s success in school and life by promoting evidence-based social, emotional, and academic learning as an essential part of education from preschool through high school. I am looking forward to someday having SEL in schools world-wide.  Website: http://www.casel.org or check them out in my twitter feed!

Books to read:

EI Goleman         EI parenting

more to come…..