Sunday, December 14, 2008

Season For Cheer

If you spend time with a happy person, you are likely to “catch” that happy feeling and if you are in the company of someone who is negative, you’ll turn out to be one yourself.
YES, it’s time again for us to wind this year down, close shop and be aware that the new year is about to beckon. Christmas trees adorn every shop window.
You see the magic of the season being proclaimed in the splash of advertisements across the billboards and on television.
Ah! It is Christmas time again and even though not many of us are Christians, we can’t help but feel the festive cheer.
Here, in Malaysia, every festival is a season for celebration. Just open the windows of your mind and the doors of your heart.
Warmth, love, friendship and camaraderie will cascade in.

Sharing festivals like Christmas with children and others makes us positive and happy.

Sharing festivals with others makes us happy and joyous too
According to author Daniel Goleman (the author of Social Intelligence:The New Science of Human Relationships), people who live longest are those who have “rich personal networks”.
These are people who are “married, have close family and friends and are active in social and religious groups”.
They are also people who are accepting, warm and receptive to others.
Their very openness brings about continued friendship and the strengthening of the ties that bind.
Goleman also reveals that one of the most significant findings of recent times is that of “mirror neurons” which “track emotional flow, movement and even intentions of the person we are with and replicate this sensed state in our own brain”.
In short, if you spend time with a happy person, you are likely to “catch” that happy feeling in yourself and express it.
If, on the other hand, you are unfortunate enough to be with someone who is cold, negative and callous, you’ll become hostile and cold too.
The message? Project happiness or be around someone who is. If you can’t measure up, then let the well-being and happiness of someone else spread to you.
But, remember this — it will be far better if you try being warm, friendly and kind.
Then, you will have it in you to attract warmth all round. Teachers, in particular, could learn from this. While it is inevitable that we will have our dog days, we could all seriously consider a make-over — and I don’t mean a cosmetic one that involves a new hairstyle, fresh make-up, or clothes.
What I mean is a make-over of the mind and heart. A desire to be a true beacon for warmth and happiness.
I am sure that the teachers most remembered by students are those who smile more, project sincere warmth, and are more accepting and tolerant.
These teachers attract a swarm of students who, in turn, are more relaxed, less anxious, more helpful and less rebellious.
As a teacher, one of the most frustrating experiences we can have is to have to teach a group of academically weak pupils who can barely sit still, what more, copy a decent sentence from the board.
In such cases, a teacher may use all her warmth to encourage learning, but in the long run, it will still not resolve matters.
What then is the answer to deal with the problem? A lowering of expectations? Continue the invitational stance despite sure failure? Or, use brute reminders?
Whichever way you choose, the crux of the matter is still a system which allows for automatic promotion to higher forms when being held back for remedial action would have been the better option.
Having got that off my chest, I’d like to remind you that once Christmas is over schools will open and start their registration exercises.
Nationwide, teachers will do well to spare a moment and ponder on the plight of the ones who are just going to start Form 1 or Year 1.
For these kids, their “new” school is going to be a place that will arouse their curiosity, anxiety and excitement.
As a parent, I know you’re hoping that your child will get good teachers at school — competent and engaging with the right persona.
But, I have to warn you that if your child gets a sulky one, take note that author and researcher Gregg Easterbrook maintains that “it requires real effort to achieve a happy and positive outlook on life, and most people don’t make it”.
According to him, “while we have been handed the keys to happiness, many people, cling to gloomy ways out of habit”.
Not very encouraging, but it is the bitter truth and one proven by University of Minnesota researcher David Lykken whose research reveals that “happiness is 50% genetic”.
So, what do naturally tense teachers have to do? Says Lykken, they have to “work on the other half of the challenge” and this “depends largely on determination”.
In other words, if a person is not determined to be happy, he may never be.
And, it therefore follows that, if a teacher chooses to be a gloomy person, attribute 50% of it to genetics and the other 50% to the fact that she’s not trying hard enough to change her ways.
All I know is this — while teachers who are accustomed to being moody and angry may choose to remain so, it does not mean they cannot be effective teachers.
Sometimes, efficacy comes laced with a stern, unsmiling demeanour.
Also, be grateful that your child at school is taught not by one teacher but several. So, things will balance out.
For now, let’s hope for the best. Season’s greetings, everyone and may all your wishes for the new year come true.

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