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Think Tank

This Month's Think Tank Panel

July 2005

Topic: Can we teach our students to be happy?

Marc Helgesen

This column is about happiness. Since I am writing it during the first week of tsuyu (rainy season), that's either very useful or hopeless wishful thinking. I really, really hated rainy season for years. I don't anymore. I'll explain that later, but first let's talk about happiness...and English teaching.

“Practice kindness: do nice things for people. It makes you happier.”

A few months ago, TIME magazine did a cover story on "the science of happiness." It talked about new things researchers are finding out. Instead of focusing on depressed people, scientists are studying people who are happy to find out how they do it. One researcher identifies eight specific behaviors happy people do. You can read the full explanation HERE, but what follows is my summary, written in language most of my university students can easily understand.

1. Notice good things in your life. Write down 3-5 of them every week.
2. Practice kindness: do nice things for people. It makes you happier.
3. Notice life's joys. When something good happens, stop.
Make a picture in your mind. OR
Tell yourself what happened. OR
Remember the feeling.
This way, you can save the moment.
4. Thank someone who has helped you. Who has been important in your life? A teacher, a sempai, a parent. Write them a letter or tell them. Explain what they did for you. Say "thank you."
5. Learn to forgive. When someone does something bad to you, don't hold the anger inside. Let go of the anger. Writing a letter to forgive someone is a good way.
6. Take time with your friends and family. They love you. You love them. Spend time with them. Let them know you appreciate them.
7. Take care of your body. Get enough sleep and exercise. Do stretching, smiling and laughing.
8. Learn ways to deal with problems. Remember, we all face problems. Learn to move past them.

Those of you who read this column regularly know that I often think in terms of activities. When I come across a new idea, I think, "What can I do to put this in the hands of my students." When I read the article in TIME, I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if I could somehow use these ideas to teach English." They are interesting and certainly lend themselves to personalization ­ a powerful motivator. And, hey, if they help some learners be more positive, that would be great. In this month's column, I'd like to share a couple of those "happiness activities" with you.

The happiness journal
Remember hearing people say, "count your blessings" when you were growing up? Turns out they were right. People who take the time to notice good things in their lives really are happier. I made a happiness journal, which I copy on to both sides of a B4 sheet. You can download a PDF file copy HERE. I give a copy to each student. I explain that it is not homework. They don't have to do it. But, if they do, they get extra points (my students always have lots of ways to get extra points. It's a way to encourage them to use English as much as possible.)

Journal writing is a common out-of-class activity and this is the same idea, but instead of asking them to tell me about their day, they tell me about good things in their lives. These don't have to be huge things. Sure, occasionally a good friend gets married or your sister has a baby. But most things are much smaller. Noticing the greeting you get from your family ­ or your dog. Hearing birds in the morning. Just noticing the smell of the air after a summer rain. Or the smell of flowers (we really are trying to get students to stop and smell the flowers, aren't we?). According to TIME, the key is to do this regularly. They suggest selecting a specific time once a week to write 3-5 sentences. Seems like a good idea to me.

The thank you letter
This is based on ideas 4 and 5 on the list above. Families are a common topic in English classes. For years I've had learners write descriptions of their family members. Last month, I gave them a choice. They could do that, or they could write a thank you letter to someone in their family. If they did that, they were supposed to write it once in English and once in Japanese (in whichever order they wanted). Almost everyone chose to write the letter (you can download that form in PDF format HERE).

The following week, when the homework was due, I showed up with envelopes and stamps. I told them they didn't have to send the letter, but I explained that research shows that people who take the time to say thank you are happier. And I knew the person they thanked would be very happy. They tore the worksheet in half. I collected the English version of the letter. This was the most satisfying set of homework assignments I've read in a while. I encouraged them to send or give the Japanese part of the letter to the family member. The worksheet explains in Japanese that "my teacher asked me to write a letter to a family member thanking them for something they have done." This makes it easier for the person to send.

Still, not everyone was comfortable sending the letter. Some felt embarrassed. And that's fine. They didn't have to give it to the person. They didn't even have to tell me if they were going to or not. Most were happy to send or give the letter to the family member. I think the fact that I was giving them stamps somehow put extra value on the activity ­ and the value was more than ¥80. I was somehow valuing them by asking that they value someone in their family.



I guess I should address the pedagogical issues here: since when is it the English teacher's job to engage in pop psychology?

Is it pop psych? Sure. That just means it is accessible, something we can work with. We are using pop psych when we start class with a smile to show enthusiasm or with a frown that shows the topic is serious.

We don't have to deal with issues like happiness, but I think it goes back to the idea that we don't just teach English, we teach people. That is basic to humanistic language teaching. A while back, Curtis talked about motivation in light of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. These activities are designed to deal with self-actualization needs. I think if we can help learners feel positive, they are in a better position to learn. It also contributes to a positive class atmosphere ­ one where we help each other. And the students are using English. Anything that has them do that I figure is good.

Besides, these are nice things to do -- which means we all benefit from list item #2.

Oh yeah, back to the tsuyu thing. This might sound like a joke. It is not, but it may be one of those things that "you either get it or you don't."

A bit of background here: My brother is a psychologist and an ordained Christian minister. He once told me he considered psychology to be "Buddhism for Westerners ­ we just try to get them to accept what is."

So, what's that got to do with rainy season? I've got a little garden next to my house. This "appreciating tsuyu" idea requires (for me, anyway) a bit of space outside. A garden is perfect. A balcony on a high rise might work. I got a big, canvas beach umbrella. Some evenings, I sit in the garden, listening to the gentle rhythm of rain on the umbrella ­ something about rain on canvas that is wonderful. I nurse a cold one as I listen to blues or country music ­ I think enka would work if I was Japanese. Instead of cursing the lousy weather, I enjoy it. For me the key is: Embrace depression. Accept it as it is. It can feel great.






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Curtis Kelly

Oh, Marc.

What a wonderful thought: that our duties as teachers include bringing happiness to the world. I can almost hear the smiles in some corners, and see the smirks in others.

And yet, from my perspective, you are right on target. This is not one of our duties, it is the duty. It took me many years to come to the conclusion that the ultimate purpose of education is to give people better lives. We do so by helping them grow, and in a sense, that means making them happy. I do not mean a smiley button kind of happy, but the two kinds of higher happiness defined by Seligman, the leading researcher on happiness.

“Is it not our mission to give our learners skills that will help them accrue higher levels of happiness later in life?”

To paraphrase, he says there are three kinds of happiness. The first is pleasure: smiling, giggling, having a good time. The second is satisfaction from a job well done, or experiencing “flow” when engaged in it. The third kind of happiness comes from living a meaningful life, or as Seligman writes, “using your greatest strengths in the service of others, for something larger.” To wit, the first kind of happiness is a giggle, the second a sigh of satisfaction, and the third a gaze at the heavens. (For more on happiness, go to AuthenticHappiness.org)

Then, is it not our mission to give our learners skills that will help them accrue higher levels of happiness later in life? Of course it is. English is a tool that will help them get better jobs, explore the larger world, and maybe even discover English as a counter-culture. We hope that in learning what we teach, our charges might someday find success in one form or another, and happiness as a result.

It is a noble mission. But it has a cost. We are forced to take away their pleasure now so that they can have higher levels of happiness later. “Banking learning” is really “banking happiness.” Each time we crack the whip, we reassure ourselves that we do so in order to help them in some later endeavor, such as passing a tough entrance exam or getting a higher score on the TOEIC. By keeping them alert from moment to moment, quiet, and looking at us, we increase their probability to learn.

Noble indeed, but maybe wrong. Research in brain studies gives us a different picture of what increases learning: the classroom happiness quotient might be even more important than the usual factors we rely on to estimate learning, such as the number of pages covered in the textbook or homework completion rates.

Why? Because, basically, learning represents a physical change in the brain. When new meaningful information is encountered, neurons seek out new axons to attach to. In this way memories are formed. When we experience worry or stress, however, our bodies release glucocorticoids in response. These hormones make us more alert, but they also impair our brains from forming new neural pathways. Over time these chemicals even have a toxic effect on neurons and memory. In short, by keeping anxiety levels high in order to make sure students are listening, we lower the learning potential.

If the anxious, attentive environment does not lead to learning, then what does? One answer is happiness, and here we are back at “pleasure” again, that lowest form of happiness. Enjoyable experiences cause our brains to release neurotransmitters that facilitate neurons in making new synapses. Something that makes us feel good causes positive feelings, and our sensory register stimulates our brain to be more receptive to the new information and add it to working memory. Success creates learning benefits too, but more in a long-term way. Situations that remind us of past failures or successes determine how receptive we are to these situations and new learning.

Maybe the most important factor, however, is how the learner “feels” about the learning situation. Emotions have a strong influence on how we grow and learn, in a complex way. On one hand, strong emotions shut down conscious processing. On the other, emotions enhance our memory of an event by causing the release of hormones that stimulate the amygdala, the emotion center, the part of our brain that reigns supreme over cognitive and memory functions.

Furthermore, since our brain is built to focus primarily on survival, it is selective in what it learns. Information affecting survival is learned the most deeply, with information generating emotions coming close behind. Information related to cognitive learning, or “the curriculum,” comes last. In short, the happy, feeling, or moving lesson leads to deeper learning. Interestingly, threatening a student with failure ­ survival-related information ­ might cause the deepest learning, but what is learnt is not what you intend. (See Eric Jensen, Daniel Goleman, and David Sousa for more.)

Now, let me close with an anecdote for you to think about. In fact, it comes from an e-mail I got just this morning. During my JALT Ibaraki presentation last weekend, on “The Psychology of Difficult Students,” I entered a discussion with a couple of high school teachers on how to handle a student who falls asleep in class. All three of us agreed that a student falling asleep makes us feel bad, because we take it as meaning our lesson is boring. The two teachers said they usually respond by saying “Wake up. You are missing some important points.” or something similar. Then, we ruminated over other ways to handle a sleeping student by using “love,” meaning a focus on the other instead of oneself. One of the teachers said, “Maybe we should show concern for why the student is sleeping instead. Maybe instead of ‘Wake up’ we should say ‘Do you feel all right?’”

Well, that teacher wrote me this morning and said that changing her approach to handling sleeping students “worked wonders.” After one boy in her class fell asleep, she asked if he felt all right, instead of just telling him to wake up. That not only made him smile, he also became more alert for the rest of the period. She felt better about herself as well.

Now consider this. In light of what we know about the safe, happy environment and learning, the positive effect on that one boy is obvious. Less obvious are the effects on everyone else in the room, including the instructor. Is praise, kindness, or punishment, directed towards one student truly his or hers alone?




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Peter Viney

Happiness, Happiness
The greatest gift
that I possess
I thank the Lord
that I've been blessed
with more than my share
of happiness ...

That was a hit record in Britain in the 60s for British comedian Ken Dodd, and ever afterwards he finished his stage show with a rendition of it. As a student, I spent an entire summer working on the Ken Dodd show, twice nightly. I did limelights for most of it, and later moved backstage, where one of my jobs was to escort Ken Dodd through the dark backstage area, up steps then down a staircase to enter for his finale after the rest of the cast had taken their bows ... Happiness. He was so hyped up with his show that he fired jokes at me non-stop in the three or four minutes we were waiting, and he never told me the same one twice. Then on he ran, complete with tickling stick, a large feather duster, (This'll make you laugh, missus) to sing Happiness with a glowing smile.

I found it profoundly depressing, and still do. Being told that you've got to be happy is a gloomy thing. I would say however that watching a very popular comedian deliver the same lines twice every night successfully is a study in timing, pausing and assessing the audience that beats any course on communication skills or presentation I've ever attended.

“Fun is easier to incorporate in lessons than happiness, which I'd define as a more profound and gentler state.”

But let's look at happiness in the context of an ELT classroom, and I'm not going to take this at a deep or philosophical level. Happiness isn't necessarily the same as having fun, something I think is vital. Fun is easier to incorporate in lessons than happiness, which I'd define as a more profound and gentler state.

I disagree with Curtis on learning tension, because learning tension can be both fun and productive. My granddaughter is under two, and loves nursery rhymes. She also loves filling in words ­ she can't recite the whole things yet. Her favourite is Baa Baa Black Sheep, and she quivers from head to foot with excitement waiting to deliver the words "little boy" in the gap I leave before "lives down the lane." That is 'learning tension' and if activities are conducted with the right pauses and timing ... back to our comedian ... by holding the cue before you select a student to answer a question or respond to a drill cue, then you can see that little quiver of anticipation in adult students too. That tiny pause is the most effective technique of all. The little quiver from students (will I be selected?) is a fun quiver in a relaxed non-judgmental classroom, though it is a close relation of the genuine quiver of fear I felt in my English schooldays with harsh, condemning teachers.

The second is worry or stress, but the difference is not so much the degree of stress, aka learning tension, but the attitude of the teacher. My teachers were condemnatory and hostile, and that's what happens when you're teaching something you don't believe in. The jolliest classes with the happiest teacher will dissolve into gloom if you're plowing through tedious exam preparation. Following the last Think Tank, there was discussion on how you teach two full-length authentic set books a year (see the Message Board). The prospect immediately fills me with gloom. You have to have faith in what you're teaching to communicate it to the students.

Take competitive activities. Some say that competition is harmful to classroom atmosphere, because there are always losers. In an ELT context, too often the same people win and the same people lose. So while competition might motivate the winners, it demotivates the losers. This is a widespread argument. However, all over the world people compete in team games and competitions because they find that the tension, the quiver of anticipation, is fun, stimulating and exciting. So that is something you take on board. What you do is to vary the activities so that competition is only part of what goes on, and you vary the competitions so that the same people don't always win. In recent books, I've always incorporated lessons on the English of Math(s) with oral puzzles on math logic. I find it pleasing that the people who can do the maths well are often those who are weaker in English. It shifts the pecking order.

There's a co-operative happiness too. People find choral singing fun (except those who can't hold a note) and this gives a group feeling of pleasure. It's the pleasure from participating in a team with others and achieving something as a group. It's why people play football, join rock groups, take ballroom dancing classes, and do amateur dramatics. When our kids were young, we always played parachute games at parties, which are a co-operative group activity where there is a degree of tension in being able to function with the group in a joint effort (getting the parachute into the air - see HERE for how it works). I think that group pleasure is happiness.

As for a relaxed state of happiness, it may be the deepest form, which can be achieved through meditation. If we try to instil it artificially, in a group of people who are not seeking that state, isn't that close to what Soma did in Brave New World? Isn't the shudder (not quiver) that I feel when Happiness comes on the radio a reaction to being told to be happy? Many activities that people find fun are stimulating rather than relaxing. The laughter area of happiness can be a great learning tool.

The best simple listening check is a joke or punch line at the end of a listening piece or dialogue. If people smile, then they show comprehension. And people will smile however old or weak the joke, because there is a relief in having understood what's going on in a foreign language. You have to be wary of jokes in themselves, as any communication skills book will tell you that jokes stop conversation. Either the style changes from joke to discussion, or communication is replaced with a ping-pong of monologue (i.e. jokes).

In the 70s there was a (mistaken) belief that classes should be a laugh a minute, the Ken Dodd tickling stick syndrome, which was physically and mentally exhausting for the teacher, though the results were good. I don't think classes should be a laugh a minute, but I do think that laughter has its place, and it's an important one. Laughter and giggling are the shortest-lived forms of happiness, and indeeed we laugh when we're in deep stress or deep embarrassment. That's because laughter relaxes the muscles which are tensing up. We also smile in stressful situations to ward off attack, but nevertheless laughter should be in the classroom. I said I wasn't going to be profound. I haven't been.

P.S. There are specific exercises and visualizations to stimulate the amygdala (which Curtis refers to). See this site for examples. One involves visualizing the amygdala as two almonds at the front of the brain, that you tickle with a feather. I guess that links Curtis's point on releasing the memory-enhancing hormones with my memories of Ken Dodd's tickling stick!




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Chris Hunt

Now is the best time to be...



Which are more fleeting, the tears of happiness or the tears of sorrow?

Happiness is...over-rated. The problem with happiness is that what goes up invariably crashes down. This can be fine if one enjoys rollercoasters. Some people enjoy the taste of their heart in their mouth. As for myself, I too often have a fear of heights, though staring out of an aeroplane window can be gently soporific. Clouds are white, and into each life a little rain must fall unless one is above them.

“The life, the learning is integral to the learner, springs from within the learner, is the learner.”

When Marc first brought up this topic I decided I would write about contentment. I realised I would mention Krishnamurti, who in his books, I thought, suggested that contentment is a more satisfactory state of affairs than happiness. To be content is to be beyond both happiness and unhappiness. Happiness screams, contentment nods sagely, unhappiness wallows, contentment nods again. But just now, on opening Education and the Significance of Life at random, I encountered the following:

"Life is pain, joy, beauty, ugliness, love and when we understand it as a whole, at every level that understanding creates its own technique. But the contrary is not true: technique can never bring about creative understanding."

I realise I was going to write about contentment as a technique. Just so many empty words. And can language learners risk contentment? Even young children need to stretch and apply themselves to acquire language, though this effort can largely be unconscious. An effective teacher will act as a catalyst and stimulate growth. The teacher, however, also needs to know how to get out of the way, lest the growth be stunted or curtailed. The life, the learning is integral to the learner, springs from within the learner, is the learner. There is an element of movement contained in this that the notion of contentment seems to restrict. At the surface level contentment appears to be static. Marc's focus on happiness is more dynamic.

Which has more meaning, fears from the past or fears for tomorrow?

If happiness is conducive to learning, it is worth considering the effect of other emotional states. From my own experience I know that fear is a murderer. One thing I inevitably warn my adult students about is that I am a dreadful speller. I have various memories of different teachers, and if I allow myself can still smell the bile in the ridicule that was sometimes heaped on pupils for bad spelling. I know that I consciously gave up trying to spell words at school and took refuge in a strategy of avoidance. That was because I feared the scorn.

Past fear, however, only goes so far in explaining present circumstances. One must keep recreating it to keep it in mind and to experience its effects. I do admit to a certain contentment when it comes to not learning to spell. By being a bad speller I can demonstrate to students both that teachers make mistakes and that it is OK to do so. In other words, I perceive my lack as an advantage rather than a disadvantage. More on this below.

Which has more hold, expectation or regret?

Another dreadful emotional state is boredom. A bored mind is a closed mind. Accordingly, I think it is essential to get feedback from students. In my mind choice and chance are both important elements of any lesson. Many books giving advice about teaching children emphasise the importance of routine. Routine certainly can help children feel comfortable and safe. It can also make them feel dull. Surprise can be stimulating and joyful.

One way to combine routine with elements of surprise is to use lesson segments. A segment has a predictable structure so children know what to expect within it. However, like eating an orange one can choose how to eat the individual segments, when to eat them and even whether to eat them at all. A segment can also contain an element of randomness. For example, at the kindergarten I am working at now we have created a segment using tables. Each table seats four children and we are encouraging them to work together at the table by focusing on choral output, i.e. when seated at the table the children should respond together rather than individually and the activities we do while at table reflect this.

The random element is introduced by using name cards and shuffling them to assign seating positions. Children sit down according to the location of their name card. Sometimes this puts students who like to argue next to each other. Conventional wisdom would be to separate them. However, the alternative of asking them whether they think they can get along together for the duration of the activity without conflict seems to be working. Through choice children learn to appreciate responsibility.

Which has more hold, experience expected or experience met?

Turning away from negative emotions, the most important positive emotion for learning is certainly desire. Need is often identified as a significant factor in language acquisition but it pales before the brilliant candescence of desire. Anyone who has tried to convince a young child to eat lunch or an older one to revise for an exam will realise that need isn't all it is cracked up to be. I feel getting a handle on desire is the holy grail of language learning, or any learning for that matter.

Students who are happy will learn more. Students who have a positive belief about themselves as learners will learn even more. Conversely students who dwell on their failures will have a difficult time. There's a very interesting article by Herbert Puchta that discusses this. Here's a link. Being aware of how students can interpret activities is important. I guess ideally an activity should be set up so that while students can perceive satisfaction at meeting a challenge they won't be able to interpret the results as failure. One reason I dislike competitive games is that they set up some students to fail. I know the argument about not giving up and that as long as one keeps trying one hasn't failed. I find this trying at best. I do think determination is useful and should be encouraged, but trying to win can also be like embracing a thistle or sitting on a bumble bee. It hurts. As the story Ferdinand The Bull by Munroe Leaf indicates, fighting and struggle is not for everyone.

Something else that is not for everyone, or shouldn't be, is testing. I wonder how much fear, misery and unhappiness tests create? I'm not just thinking about formal tests. I'm also thinking about anything that a student might perceive as a test. I think it is possible to perceive the light of curiosity die in the face of child who feels he or she is being tested.

Unconditional love is the greatest gift we can give children. When children know they have this, they become free to determine for themselves what they will be. They become free to grow and free to change. In Munroe Leaf's story Ferdinand's mother, who as he puts it, is a cow, is wise enough to allow her son to be himself. Would that all human fathers and mothers could do the same. Should teachers of children accept the wishes of parents over those of children? I've met quite a few children who enjoy learning English. I've probably met more who are indifferent to it. I've met some who really disliked it. Where possible, I've refused to work with children who had no interest. This means I've worked with a lot of ambivalent children and increasingly I wonder about this. If we don't have passion for something and don't want to develop it, why do it? Isn't that ultimately the road to unhappiness? Shouldn't we be encouraging children to find and develop their own passions? Shouldn't we be doing the same?

I have no passion to become a good speller and I know it. Intellectually I can perceive both advantages and disadvantages with my lack of skill in this area. When contemplating change it is always worth examining what benefits might be lost with the change. Sometimes it is necessary to address those benefits and recreate them in another way before genuine change can take place.

Marc mentioned some ways to be happy. He concluded with the idea of embracing depression. This is more than two sides of the same coin. It is learning to flip the coin. The same can be done with learning. Get students to look at what they are passionate about and see how those passions can be applied to English learning. Conversely think about what benefits students can perceive from not learning English. Can creative ways be found to get these through English?

Passion like happiness can be cultivated. Both come from inside. And both are less something to have than something to be. And the best time to be something is...




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Nurturing Happiness

Chuck Sandy

This morning I received an email from a seminar student who told me she had woken up happy for no reason at all. She then went on to say that given this rare occurrence and the brilliance of the day, she'd decided to take the day off to thoroughly enjoy herself. She wrote, "I'm just too happy to come to school today. Sorry!" Sitting in my office, looking out the window at what the day had to offer I knew just what she meant, and so found I could offer no better reply than "make the most of your day and have fun."

“By carefully setting up tasks and projects in a scaffolded way that leads to success, we nurture and produce happiness.”

That's one kind of happiness, the kind that comes unbidden and unwarranted and floats off your shoulders into the very air around you. When it comes, you grab it, shrug your shoulders, raise your hands to embrace it, but take no credit for it. This sort of happiness is a gift, and the very best thing to do is to enjoy it while it lasts.

Though I'm sure, as Marc suggests in his essay, there are ways to nurture this sort of pure happiness and become more aware of the way it works, it is not something we can call up at will or work towards in a class. If, however, we as teachers happen to arrive at school in such a state, that pure happiness is likely to rub off on those who we come in contact with. Such happiness is so infectious, I found that a bit of it entered into me simply from reading my student's joyful message. Afterwards, I walked out of my office and into a class smiling in a way I had not been earlier that morning. This caused the two boys who'd arrived early to smile at me, and that set the tone for the whole class which followed ­ where we worked at another kind of happiness: the kind which comes from being successful at something.

Over the past couple of years, I've moved almost entirely to a project-based curriculum in which students work not at language but towards the successful completion of various extended tasks. These tasks range from the sort of story-telling project I completed with one class today, to the production of a short podcast radio show with segments which students research, write, record and produce. No matter what the project is, when we begin and I show them an example of what they will be doing, they invariably look at me in a way that suggests they feel I'm describing something which is impossible for them to do. Of course, at that very moment, it is impossible, for they still lack the various language tools they'll need to carry it out. Then, however, with the explanation of the steps we'll go through and the language we'll learn, they begin to relax a bit, and once we begin doing the carefully scaffolded activities which, step by step, give them everything they need to complete the final extended task, they see how it all fits together. Then they begin to see how to make their own work their own, and they get at it to produce the best material they are then capable of. Everyone succeeds, though at varying levels, and when they do you can see and feel the happiness it produces.

The story-telling project we concluded today began three classes ago with me telling the group a story about the funniest thing that had ever happened to me. Next, I told them a story about the most terrifying thing I'd ever experienced. Then, I explained that two weeks from that day, they'd one by one stand up in front of another class and tell a story just as I had done. They hardly believed me. I then explained to them, though, that between the beginning and the end of the project they would learn how to put the events of a story in an effective order, learn the grammar they'd need to connect their ideas, discover and practice some story-telling techniques, and have the chance to give each other feedback as they practiced. Then, we got to work in a way that virtually assured everyone would be successful -- and they were.

Anyone interested in learning more about the steps we took and the activities we did over the next three classes is welcome to contact me for the details. Each of those classes had its moments of happiness, but here I'd like to jump ahead to today when each of the students took his or her turn up in the front of the room with another class as the audience. As they told their stories and saw the look of comprehension of those in front of them, they began to glow. When they heard people in the audience laugh at the lines in their stories that were meant to be funny, they glowed even more. When they finished to applause, they lit up in a way that was beautiful to see. Their success at this task made them happy, and they walked away from class today feeling good about themselves and their abilities. That's take-away value worth pursuing.

By carefully setting up tasks and projects in a scaffolded way that leads to success, we nurture and produce happiness. Though I'd like to know how to nurture that unbidden happiness which my seminar student woke up with this morning -- happy for no reason -- I don't imagine I'll ever have the regular ability to do that. Still, as a teacher, knowing how to produce this other kind of happiness which comes with success is more than enough for me.




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