Recently, I ran a professional development workshop for teachers at a primary school. It was just a few days before the beginning of the year and into one of the classes crammed a group of teachers.
I came an hour before the official time and spent all of it waiting for someone to open the door. We started about 45 minutes after 9am, which is when we were supposed to start. As if that was not enough, the principal said to me, “You know, the teachers don’t really want to be here, so could you finish at 3pm?”
That meant I had to deliver a whole day’s worth of valuable knowledge in 4 hours (excluding breaks and feedback).
If you have ever given a presentation, you know that when you are asked to cut parts of the presentation, you have to choose the least important parts. In my program, I had already crammed a crash course in Special Education in a single day. I had packed 4 years of 5 days a week from 8am to 5pm into 6 hours of actual presentation. Everything was important!
At the end of the day, I packed my props, feeling really good about myself, and discussed a potential research program at the school with the principal when she said to me, “There was a lot to take from today. If the teachers only take one thing, I will be very happy”. It made me wonder what this thing may be.
This week, I had another meeting with the principal about our experimental program to enhance academic achievement (I am so excited!). While we were preparing for our meeting, we went into the staff room, where two teachers were having lunch and others were fixing some posters. I asked the two teachers how the beginning of the year was for them and one of them (let’s call her Sally) said to me, “Ronit, you should have told us not to approach our partners with happiness stuff when they come back tired from work”.
She was right. I never said anything like that, but I knew she wanted to tell me something. “Why? What happened to you?” I asked her as other teachers joined us.
“I came home pumped and full of energy after the workshop and had lots of motivation. That evening, when my husband came home from work, I told him about the happiness list. He was grumpy and asked me to leave him alone. My list was huge by then and I was dying to know what his list would look like, but he would not even listen”.
The teacher next to her said, “Maybe after a shower and a glass of wine…”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Well, the next day, I told my kids about the happiness list, gave each of them a notebook and told them to write the things that made them happy and leave their list in a visible place so everyone could see it. At first, they wrote the big things, like you said, but for about 4 days, they helped each other find more things and every other sentence we said was, ‘This makes me happy’ or ‘I did this for you because it was on your happy list and I wanted to make you happy’ or ‘I’m happy to do it’. It was very joyful in the house. The kids and I bonded so well within a short time by talking about happy things that on the fifth day, my husband said he was feeling left out and wanted to make a list too”.
“Ooooooh”, said everyone, “And did he?”
“My daughter gave him a notebook and made him sit until he finished writing 100 things that made him happy”, Sally said in a proud voice.
“How old are your kids?” I asked.
“My daughter is 16 and the boys are 19 and 21”, she said.
I looked at them smiling. The teachers were all excited and gathered around Sally, feeling so close and so happy. It took me straight into the dilemma regarding what was more important and what was less.
I understood the real change does not start when I present my messages but when they start travelling from one person to another, from one circle of influence to another circle of influence.
You can make a difference in the world like a ripple effect just by changing one thought
– Sheena Stegent
As the principal closed the door to her office a second before our meeting, I knew I had made a difference!
And it was a double whammy, because “making a difference” is on my happy list…