8 Habits of Happy Teachers

Do the things on this list to maximize your joy. (They really work.)

8 Habits of Happy Teachers

Sometimes we have to fake it until we make it. If we want to be happier, maybe we could start by doing what happier teachers do.

We polled some of the happiest teachers we know and this is what they told us. The common denominator? Positive daily habits. And the habits are not just actions, but thoughts, too. (Oof, thoughts are harder to change than actions, sometimes! But turns out, it is worth the effort.)

Try these 8 things and tell us how it goes!

1. Keep certain hours totally school-free.

Veteran teachers in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group are always trying to explain this to newbies. You MUST rope off time where school work/thought is not allowed. Here’s a great one-page guide to getting everything done without sacrificing your free time! 

2. Wear clothes that make you feel good.

Oh you think this doesn’t matter?  One English teacher we know says, “I love my red pants with the blue polka dot turtle neck with a cotton grey blazer and my grey and white wing tip oxfords. I know my kids appreciate the brightness too.” Here are a dozen pieces every teacher should own.

3. Think of yourself as a great teacher.

That’s what all of those cheerful, inspirational teacher quotes on Facebook are about: trying to get us to feel like happy teachers feel. Happy teachers never forget that they are awesome educators with one of the most influential, interesting jobs on the planet.

But what if you aren’t a great teacher yet? Concentrate on your successes (past and present). And remember there’s power in changing your perspective, trying new things. Also, there are lots of ways to be a great teacher! Find your own, original path to greatness.

You are extraordinary

4. Vote and be politically active.

As our teacher friend Donna B. says: “Stay politically aware and use your voice in emails and phone calls to local politicos. Our voices are making an impact!” Politics definitely have an impact on public schools, from testing and curriculum to funding and teacher pay.

I Am a Public School Teacher

5. Strive always for a friendly, welcoming classroom.

Veteran happy teachers say that setting a friendly tone is key.  Daily praise of each student’s good qualities, daily affirmations of class mottos, cooperation exercises, secret handshakes, and even daily post-it notes of positivity. A high school teacher we know says, “I have a colleague who puts flowers from her garden in a vase and DJ’s classical music. The kids love it.”

Check out this guide to fostering a positive school culture.  And here’s advice on how to change the culture in your classroom by changing the way you talk to kids. 

6. Take fun vacations.

Work hard, play hard. Teachers are the best vacationers.  Check out these 21 things every teacher should do on spring break.

Last but not least, 4 practically free staycations for the budget-conscious teacher.


7. Be a positive, helpful colleague, every day.

You reap what you sow, so sow positivity, helpfulness, support, and affirmation. Check out this great article about how to get along with ANY teacher colleague. 


8. Import your own joy.

Two ways to do this, both recommended. First: import things you like into your day. One high school teacher we know in Tennessee says: “Pack a yummy lunch that you look forward to and add details to the lunch: fun napkins with flavorful food, for instance. I import my own quality coffee in a construction worker thermos.” Here is some packed lunch inspiration.

Second: You can often determine your own mood and frame of mind (one of the coolest things about being a human) simply by insisting upon it. (If you haven’t tried one yet, start a gratitude journal. Research concludes that they really work.)

We’d love to hear: Share what daily habits contribute to your happiness in the comments.