Posts Tagged ‘happiness project’

March 25-31 NaBloPoMo Catchup + March THP

By Kristina

Playing catchup today after staying home sick for a day and a half. I find myself repeating these patterns of “push too much” and “overschedule” and end up paying for it. I ended up not finishing the “post once a day for March” goal that I’d envisioned for my March Happiness Project goal, but I want to at least answer the questions (however short the answers may be).

Tuesday, March 25, 2013
What is your favourite personality trait that you possess?

Before this month, I would have said “creativity.” After reading a letter from my dad to my cousin’s son (who had asked about the traits that his children had picked up from him and my mom), I would say “compassion” (tied with “connection to family”).

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Wednesday, March 26, 2013
Do you enjoy being alone? What do you do when you’re by yourself?
1) Read.
2) Knit.
3) Cook and watch reruns of my favorite shows on Netflix.

Thursday, March 27, 2013
Have you ever taken a trip by yourself? Do you prefer to travel with people or alone?
In spite of liking to hang out alone, I prefer to travel with other people. My favorite trips have been with my fiance or with close girlfriends (aka ladycations). I’ve admired those who journey around the world alone, but I value the shared experience more than just the experience itself.

Friday, March 28, 2013
How old were you when you started your first diary?

I was eight years old. I started my first diary in a pink, ballet-slipper adorned, locked notebook that I could open with a small silver key. I saved that diary along with subsequent notebooks: another locked box holding a pink, green, and yellow notebook, a green spiral notebook, a composition book that I decorated with magazine cutouts and covered with clear tape, and many others. I enjoy looking back on the memories I recorded then.

Monday, March 31, 2013
Tell us one thing you learned about yourself this month.

I learned that my intentions to follow The Happiness Project this year, though well-meaning, were based in inauthenticity and wanting to be more to the point of making myself unhappy. I wanted to blog about my journey and self-improvement, but found that I fell into old habits of taking on too much, especially because the book encourages you to keep up the monthly resolutions even as you add more with each new month. It was fine for January and February, but I began to feel like I was juggling too much and perceived THP as a chore rather than as improvement. I realized that what worked so well for Gretchen Rubin won’t work for me if I copy it or compare myself to her. After reading a wise blog post by a friend, I started to think about about saving my emotional and temporal investments for the important stuff. The life of a teacher is very different from the life of a writer and requires different supports. The life of an “about to get married” woman is different from that of “mother of toddlers.” I’m not giving up on the Happiness Project, but I have to do it in a way that’s enough for me and serves me well rather than making me think of always achieving more.

february THP recap

By Kristina

How’d I do?


1) Spend two hours a week with my fiance away from electronics:
– We didn’t take walks together. I’m okay with this because it’s been so cold and icy. We can always start our “walk to a Sunday night dinner spot” idea again in the spring. We did this once in the fall by walking to Menotomy Grill & Tavern in Arlington because we wanted a little exercise and a lot of time for us to talk while walking.
– We worked on a Cake Pops puzzle while watching House of Cards Season 2 (does that count as electronics?) at the start of my February break.
– We went to Mexico for a few days during February break. However, we did check social media and email…tsk tsk.
– In spite of the electronics creeping in, I am happy that we were more mindful of quality time.

2) Give up expecting people to change (within reason) to lessen anger and resentment, and create a more loving atmosphere (inspired by the last line of the chapter).
– I got much better at being patient with my students and with myself (which ironically just made me more patient with students). I have thought more


Go to sleep earlier
– Not doing this so well. I’m still using the sleep mask but I’ve gotten tempted to read emails and check Instagram before going to sleep and right after waking up.
– I still check the Jawbone Up data.

Exercise better
– I’m still happy with using the Jawbone Up to track my steps and to remind myself to move more (via the “idle for 15 minutes” buzz).
– I stopped logging in MyFitnessPal but I still weigh myself with Withings and try to log at least what I’m eating rather than enter in a ton of different ingredients into MyFitnessPal for every meal. That habit doesn’t feel sustainable to me. I do well when I make a meal plan for the week, grocery shop on Sundays, and prepare enough so that I can sustain a cooking habit throughout the week. However, as work has become busier and I have gone out more to eat at blogger events, I have let my cooking habits lag and I’m feeling crappier as a result.
– I have started going to spin classes more and love them!

Toss, restore, organize
– I got rid of some books by donating them to Whole Foods.
– My laundry and cooking and preparing routines are still generally good, but with lapses. I don’t like not feeling organized.

Tackle a nagging task
– Loving the Bullet Journal now! I carry it in my purse and like its simplicity. I’m still using Evernote to collect ideas.
– Though I vowed to focus on not going on personal email or gchat until I finished the lesson plan for the next day, I still need to jumpstart this habit and get it back to where I want it to be.
– I feel like my to-do list is out of control, so I have to refocus on planning out each day and the most important tasks at the beginning.

Act more energetic
– I’m happy with this. Teaching and leading are both going better. I feel more patient and like I am able to do more with less.

february THP

By Kristina

The February chapter in The Happiness Project is titled “Remember Love” and focuses on the author’s marriage. I applaud her for being able to admit to her shortcomings and describe her interactions (fights, nagging, etc.) but I don’t consider Appetite for Instruction to be an appropriate venue for that.

The chapter’s main topics are:
– Quit nagging.
– Don’t expect praise or appreciation.
– Fight right.
– No dumping.
– Give proofs of love.

Though this chapter’s original focus is about marriage, I think a lot can be applied to teaching. In particular: reframing situations rather than reacting in anger, being student-centered rather than teacher-centered, and aiming to empathize and understand (more on this later).

My goals for this month:

1) Spend two hours a week with my fiance away from electronics: taking walks, doing puzzles, or knitting while he puts together LEGO creations. Though this is marriage-focused, I think it’s important to share because of how it relates to work/life balance in teaching. My friend Janet (a fellow teacher) suggested this to me a while ago. If you’re in the same room as your significant other but focused on your work, that doesn’t count as quality time. A little extra investment in quality time pays huge dividends in the classroom, because a happy teacher will teach happily. Classroom management suffers when implemented by a cranky teacher.

2) Give up expecting people to change (within reason) to lessen anger and resentment, and create a more loving atmosphere (inspired by the last line of the chapter). We can’t force our students to conform to what we have envisioned in our heads. It can be easy to plan a lesson and then become frustrated when the students don’t get it right away. I used to have rigid standards and ideals in my head about where my students *should* be and then get irritated when they weren’t right where I expected them to be. Getting more organized via January THP has helped me make room for being more patient, and I think that more focus in February will help me even more.

However, a recent fitness class experience illustrated to me that sometimes the best intentions may miss the mark on students’ ability levels. I went to a yoga class where the “peak poses” were revolved bird of paradise, bound triangle, and side crow. The first two had some scaffolding so that even the most inflexible yogis could make an attempt at them by using a yoga strap. However, on the first attempt at side crow, 95% of the 70-person class could not get into the pose. Having never even achieved regular crow, I felt like the side crow prep was success enough for me. However, the instructor commented on the class not making it into the pose and that she “felt like a bad yoga teacher.” She then demonstrated the pose in the middle of the room and gave some more cues to address common mistakes in alignment or positioning. I appreciated that she adjusted the instruction instead of being disappointed in us.

Looking forward to a more loving atmosphere in February!

january THP recap

By Kristina

How’d I do?

January’s Happiness Project:
Go to sleep earlier.
Exercise better.
Toss, restore, organize.
Tackle a nagging task.
Act more energetic.

Go to sleep earlier
– I ended up not using the cute vintage alarm clock that I bought because my fiance made some DIY adaptations to our nightstands. He added small reading lamps (not seen in the picture) and drilled holes in the sides of the nightstand so that our phone chargers could be hidden in the shallow drawers instead of being on top of the nightstands. I found that this helped me fight the temptation to look at my phone at night. I am also proud to say that I have resisted downloading the latest viral game, FlappyBird.

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– The sleep mask is great. I have been using the pink one so far, a la Blair Waldorf. I like it a lot; it also serves as a deterrent to getting up and reading emails or playing phone games. My Jawbone Up also tracked my sleep, so I was able to look at my sleep data and see a more concrete connection between less sleep and crankiness.

Blair-Waldorf-sleep-maskPhoto Credit: Real Style Network

Exercise better
– Overall, using my Jawbone Up helped me streamline my exercise. Instead of focusing on making it to more classes, I aimed to add more walking during the day through walks to and from the T, errand walks, and walking in the school.
– Using MyFitnessPal and Withings helped so much in assessing trends and making small but effective changes to my food and exercise choices. I don’t want to fall into the self-destructive habit of focusing only on calorie counts and the weight on the scale, so I may back off the tracking a bit in the coming months. I am happy to be better informed about the calories and nutrients in various foods. I definitely incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and have developed consistent habits for making breakfast, packing lunch, and stocking my kitchen to be able to cook quick + healthy dinners.

Toss, restore, organize
– I only did one major scanning and shredding session, and didn’t rip a single DVD. However, I feel way more organized in the kitchen and with my routines (packing lunch, preparing outfits and bag the night before, cooking dinner).

Tackle a nagging task
– Loving the Bullet Journal now! I carry it in my purse and like its simplicity. I’m still using Evernote to collect ideas.
– I started the month banning myself from going on personal email or gchat until I finished the lesson plan for the next day. I started to slack on this at the end of the month so I’m going to refocus on it now.

Act more energetic
– This has impacted my teaching and running of meetings. Instead of focusing on having the perfect lesson plans or project ideas, I channel more energy into assessing and reacting to how my students are handling the material. More patience and a calm demeanor pay off way more than snazzy technology piloted by CrankyMe. I also am focusing on being more patient in team leading and IB coordinating, and the atmosphere just *feels* better.

unruffling and reshuffling

By Kristina

As I made my way through my inbox, unsubscribing from newsletters in my “toss/restore/organize” phase, I found this article via Behance and It was a lovely surprise among the “six weeks to your leanest body!” Women’s Health newsletters, “40% off bedding” Crate & Barrel ads, and “Wedding Dresses starting at $199!” David’s Bridal missives…and a “that moment when…you realize the crazy person in the article is YOU.”

I’ve felt “crazy/busy” before and operated under the assumption that the more I was working, the better teacher I would be. I look back now and realize that my constant motion, harried tone, and rushing created a stressful atmosphere in my classroom (and in meetings I led when I started in leadership roles). Instead of prioritizing, I labeled everything as “urgent” and raced around putting out fires. Operating like a frantic hamster scurrying along its wheel didn’t make me any more productive. I took on more responsibilities with after-school programs and IB, which fostered an image of me as Ms. Busy Bee. I’d happily tick off items from my various to-do lists , yet I’d put off the most difficult tasks until the end of the day.

The biggest task? Lesson planning. I craved grading–it fit neatly into my items to tick off. I used to do grading during prep periods and get a lot of other tasks done, only to find myself at home on the couch, still wondering what I was going to teach the next day. That would leave me much less time to craft a lesson plan as well as a foggy, tired brain that couldn’t think as fast or anticipate how students would respond to activities or math problems. That led to awkward explanations in lessons, mistimed activities, and confused students.

How does one lay the foundation for this hamster-wheel hodgepodge? Picture this start to the day for Ruffled Teacher.

6:00 Wake up, shower, and hastily pull together outfit from pile of clean laundry. Slap makeup on face, let hair air dry, and gather together books, lesson materials, wallet, and keys from various spots in apartment.
6:30 Pick up breakfast sandwich and coffee on the way to the T.
6:40 Wail when coffee spills on sleeve during sprinting reaction to to “the next train to Ashmont is now…arriving” mechanical voice booming from the T speakers.
7:25 Stagger into school like a zombie; the caffeine still hasn’t kicked in. Wonder if licking coffee off sleeve would help energy levels.
7:30 Print handouts for first period and scoot over to teachers lounge to copy, only to find several coworkers in line behind someone making 54 copies of a 20 page handout.
7:40 Ah, copies are going. Oh, wait…that’s the joyful “beep beep beep” of a paper jam. #$%$^&#^$@!!!
7:45 Rush into class, already cranky.

Embarking on the Happiness Project and starting new habits for 2014 have both left me calmer, especially at work. Decluttering, eating better, and using my time more meaningfully have all influenced this. For example, I now ban myself from checking personal email at work until after my lessons for the following day are prepped and copied, and this looks more like the start to my day. I also started taking my own advice to students and making time to eat breakfast at home and pack a healthy lunch. Sure, a half-hour more of sleep sounds better in theory but having a little soothing morning time and lots of nutrients also goes a long way.

5:35 Wake up (already showered). Put on outfit that was picked out the night before. Start hot water for french press that has been filled with coffee grounds the night before. Comb hair and put on makeup in non-rushed way. Eat breakfast. Take packed lunch from fridge, work bag (packed the night before), wallet, and keys (from same spot on key rack).
6:42 Board the T after a walk or carefully timed bus ride (via the Catch the Bus app).
7:25 Walk into school and say “good morning” to people, already being caffeinated helps with morning cheeriness!
7:30 Walk into classroom with already prepped whiteboard and handouts that were printed the day before.

That kind of a start to the day lays a foundation for Unruffled Teacher. Unruffled Teacher has a calm work style, which the article points out as a mark of competency and of being poised and strategic rather than reacting all day to others’ demands. Both my headmasters evoke the unruffled demeanor. They respond calmly when teachers come to them with crises, and help provide guiding strategies for said crises. I’m aiming to unruffle myself so that I set a calm atmosphere in my classroom and meetings.

1) Block out time needed to achieve realistic goals, and accommodate for interruptions.
2) Understand the big picture and focus less on the minutiae.
3) Slow your roll (as the kids say these days).

The “crazy/busy? you’re stressing everyone out” article brought me to this one about fixing bad habits. I initially thought the changes to my daily routine would be too hard to handle, but I’ve actually grown to like the various processes and habits easier than if I’d implemented them only a few times per week. I realized that simple food triumphs over trying to incorporate fancy gourmet recipes at every meal; it’s the cooking + packing habit that was important to implement. Reading a book on the T for a few minutes each day is sticking with me more than if I’d approached the habit with the mindset that I must read 5 books this month. And oddly enough, I’d been habituating my first steps of the habit by retooling the start to the day and the baby steps for decluttering, eating better, and using time more meaningfully.

the play list

By Kristina

My friend Rebecca posted this great article on Facebook the other day. I like this “play list” idea for my overarching resolution theme of: “use time meaningfully.” I have often overscheduled my calendar, even back when I used a paper planner. I wanted to fill every blank space with an activity so that I’d feel accomplished, and I didn’t realize that I should allow buffer time between activities and rest time for recharging. I still overestimate how much running or barre I can do. I schedule out a ton of workouts and then realize that I have to cancel them.


Create a play list. Write down three activities you could do for hours on end. Mine are reading, editing photos on my computer and playing Ping-Pong with my family.

Now carve out time on your calendar. Even when I’m busiest, I schedule unstructured time. It’s important to protect playtime the way you protect work, church or PTA meetings.

Play well with others. When my husband and kids made their own play lists, we realized that our usual vacations, which involved sightseeing, weren’t really anyone’s idea of play. So now we go places where we can hike, swim and play cards—things that make us all our most silly, creative and free-spirited selves.”

My Play List

1) Reading.
Library books (physical ones or downloaded to the iPad via Overdrive).

2) Doing jigsaw puzzles.
Some of my favorite vacations have been New Hampshire cabin “staycations” with my fiance. We buy lots of food, drink, and firewood for the staycations and spend most of our time doing a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle next to a roaring fire with our latest tv series of interest (e.g., House of Cards, Scandal) on in the background.

3) Knitting. 
I don’t know how to knit well enough to make a project yet, but I imagine that my love for jigsaw puzzles will transfer over to knitting. After I take a basics class and develop some skills, I’ll happily make scarves, coffee cozies, and mason jar cozies!