The Perfect Formula For Teacher Happiness
I’ve long nursed a love-hate obsession with Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. A self-proclaimed guru in “lifestyle design,” Ferriss writes on his blog about everything from staying in shape to making gobs (and gobs and gobs) of money to aerating wine with a blender. In his quest to generate the perfect lifestyle design, he made an important discovery. Restated as a formula, it looks something like this:
LEARNING + SERVICE = HAPPINESS
Ferriss doesn’t mention teaching in his post, but it’s the first profession that came to my mind as I read.
If that’s true, then why are so many teacher so unhappy?
Learning is embedded within our job description – whether it’s honing management skills, expanding content knowledge, or learning to navigate the nuances of each child, we are in a state of perpetual study. Service is an equally potent facet of our role. From the incalculable hours and dollars we spend outside of what’s stated in our contracts to grueling emotional fatigue, most of us are giving well beyond ourselves on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Learning is the foundational pillar within a teacher’s soul and service is the pumping force that drives a teacher to have more than an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. influence on kids.
But is something missing?
Last year, I met a first grade teacher who raised her students’ reading scores from pre-literate to grade level, but was truly miserable every step of the way. I also collaborated with a brilliant 9th grade teacher who pushed my thinking in a number of ways, but by his own admission is “long gone” and will never take another step inside his classroom.
These examples aren’t meant to trivialize the many happy teachers I know, but they speak to certain reality many of us are facing every day. Despite Ferriss’s seemingly logical “formula” for happiness and its reasonable application to what we do, we cannot ignore the fact that many of our fellow teachers struggle to maintain the passion, energy and enthusiasm they need to.
I’m not an expert here, so I’m turning to you: What is Ferriss missing? What can we add to his formula to ensure our own happiness?