Inspired Ideas
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Inspired Ideas

The Happiness Factor of Back-to-School

By Janis Effner, Former Educator and Professional Services Director at McGraw Hill

Is anyone else feeling a sense of happiness as this new school year begins? I don’t know who is happier, parents loading up backpacks and prepping for back-to-school madness, students ready to talk with friends in-person, or teachers who want to delete their online teaching app and never look back!

There is excitement on campuses. Laughing and conversations echo from classrooms. Back at work, parents are sipping on coffee and talking with co-workers about goals for the year. First-day school pics flood our social media. It feels a lot like normal. Or better, it feels like happy.

It is said you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and wow has this been true about the value of our school community over the last few years when ‘going to school’ was no longer a guarantee. As we re-enter the halls of our schools let us take time to celebrate the happiness school brings to so many.

Living Lighter

Working with students at different skill levels and learning types is a heavy task. Having student success requires daily adjustments and determination. Teachers work in this demanding environment every day with perseverance and grit. It is tough work.

These last two years of remote learning have made me passionate about the incredible need for our teachers. Never have I felt more inadequate than when trying to teach math to my high schooler and not being able to teach him the math skills he needed to succeed. The stress was crushing. Teaching my child challenged me mentally, physically, and emotionally. My son needs his teachers.

Parents now more than ever understand the strain of being an educator. As we face the year ahead I feel hopeful as most students will return to class, to in-person classes, with teachers who will work their magic daily.

Teachers are back and I feel lighter. Teacher treats and thank-you notes need to increase this year and forever. My soul is lighter. My laughter comes easier.

I am thankful for amazing school communities that support families across the world.

A Life of Belief

I am certain you have read many students are more behind than ever after the dynamics caused by the pandemic. As we face this challenge know every teacher can tell you about a student(s) who exceeded all expectations, broke all statistics, and excelled in the face of obstacles.

All educators have witnessed the amazing ability of students to succeed and thrive, and we know they will do it again. They live every day with this belief and watch students learn faster than expected with focus and determination. The tough job of being an educator has many benefits, one of the biggest joys is being a witness to the unending resilience of students despite less-than-ideal circumstances.

A surprise that came from the last few years for me personally is my son passing Algebra I and Geometry at home. Not only did he pass he made B’s and became a pro at learning at home. Despite the worries, math fears, and all the distractions he did it. Why? Because students are amazing.

Part of our mindset this year should be to expect the unexpected and celebrate it.

Our students can and will. Students are happy because they recognize our belief in them.

Kindness and Community

You will not experience full happiness this school year unless you are kind. This includes being kind to yourself, other adults, and students.

Each morning recognize your strengths and struggles, and with self-kindness, plan to grow.

Walk into school this year remembering you work with humans. We have various teaching and learning skills, personalities, backgrounds, hobbies, thoughts, and passions. Our differences should make us stronger. Make acceptance of the people who are a part of your campus normal. Acceptance and kindness are a part of healthy communities.

Have you ever had an angry parent call because their child made a 98 in your class and they want them to make a 100?? You know the call, the one that comes right as you are walking out the door on a Friday afternoon with a parent who wants an extra-credit assignment for the weekend to bring up the 98. It can be frustrating dealing with differences of focus and thoughts, especially when they can’t be adequately explained or understood. If it takes total insight to be kind then kindness will cease to exist. Let’s make an extra effort to be kind this year.

Our students need to see kindness modeled when it is difficult. Show them how it is done. Working together to build a community of kindness has never been more important. Know each other. Accept each other.

Kindness and community breed happiness.

Making a Happy World

Teachers thank you for bringing happiness to students, parents, and communities. As this year begins may we never take you for granted again. Thank you for believing in and building up students. No matter what surprises this year brings I know you are succeeding in tough situations and, with kindness, continuing to make changes in the lives of all who come across your path this year.

As this school year starts know that making a difference makes the world a happy place. So YOU make the world happy. Thank you and continue to take care of you. As always, we need you.

Janis Effner is the professional services director at McGraw Hill. She was a Secondary classroom teacher and reading specialist for over 10 years. Janis is a powerful media and communication professional with a Principal Certification focused on Secondary School Administration/Principalship from Schreiner University. She lives in the beautiful state of Alaska.



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McGraw Hill

McGraw Hill


Helping educators and students find their path to what’s possible. No matter where the starting point may be.