I don't know about you, but when life throws me a few too many curveballs, I get off balance. I don't want to get out of my PJ's all day, I start yelling at my family, or I am just WAY to sarcastic about a topic and I make my family and friends listen to me go on and on about something.
That's when I know I need to hit the reset button. Resetting for me can be a long walk with the dog, meeting a friend at Starbucks, playing the guitar or knitting to name a few. It seems as though once do a preferred activity, I start to find other activities I need and want to do. My balance goes back to normal rather quickly.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a great psychologist, believes "flow" is the secret to happiness. It's the oxygen of the soul. Often a person in "flow" is devoting all concentration to the task, has a clear goal of what to do and how to reach the goal, confidence to complete the task and often loses track of time. Csikszentmihalyi gave a ted talk in 2004 that helped me understand 'flow" a little bit better. Anyway, little kids are in "flow" all the time and yet when we grow up, so many of us engage in less and less "flow". We think work is work and play comes after hours yet Csikszentmihalyi would argue that work is a great place to find "flow" in the right conditions.
So, I started to think about how I find "flow" and I started to see a bigger picture. I like nature, interacting with people, and creating. If my day involves any of those things, it's usually a great day.
Hope, my daughter, spends every Saturday at the barn riding horses. When I thought more about it, I think it's because she loves animals, she loves people and she loves trying new things. At the barn, her teacher is pushing her to be a better rider. She hangs out with horses, barn cats and other riders similar to her age all day long. It really is a beautiful thing to see her at the barn. On the ride home I listen to her go on and on about how adorable the pony was, what her friends were talking about and how much fun the day was. She always complains that her day went way to fast and she wants me to pick her up even later the next Saturday.
So, as a teacher, I think about the kids that come in and out of my room. Primary students are often full of "flow". They bounce into music and often all I have to do is suggest moving, singing, or creating and mid sentence I have kids moving, singing and creating. Yet when upper elementary grades enter my room, a few don't enter with the same enthusiasm. Some have a disconnect. School (or music) is work for them, not play. The spark isn't there anymore and it's heart breaking.
What can I learn from this? My husband and I were talking about "flow" at lunch yesterday (nerdy, I know) and he wondered if we as teachers couldn't start to look for signs of "flow" in our students. What engages each of them? He has me thinking. The next time I hear a child say "That was SO much fun!" or "What?!? It's time to go?" I'm going to write down the activity we did that day on a roster next to the child's name. If possible, I'm going to think about what type of activity it was so I can start to understand if a kid is an explorer, creator, problem solver, etc. For those who seem disconnected, I'm going to watch even closer for that spark. Once I have a good idea as to what it is that excites that child, I am going to customize a simple activity to engage, or even better empower that child in their learning. Will it work? I'm gonna try it and see.
The experiment begins....