Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Minister of Happiness

After a day to battle jet-lag, I’m back in my element. A big open space with a beautiful wood floor and a circle of strangers about to become intimate fast. In company with old friends Soili, Terhi and Markus and Orff trainers soon to become friends, we are hosting 70 teachers in a five-day Orff training in a retreat setting. They finished school on Friday and were here by Sunday.

One told us how she was exhausted on Saturday morning and questioning her sanity jumping right into this course for professional development. But after the first day, she testified how energized she felt and how happy she found herself. And that’s when the thought struck me that we Orff trainers pose as educators training teachers, but what we really are is Ministers of Happiness. We offer music without the loneliness of solitary practice, perfection through the back door of mistakes with a smile, community without checking anyone’s credentials or beliefs, only their willingness to play. We dance without counting calories burned or heart rate achieved, sing as the spirit moves rather than as the printed page dictates and uncover the inner child without the jargon or exorbitant therapy rates. And the cherry on the top is often professional development credit that moves us up a step on the salary scale. Really, if there’s a better deal in town, I’d like to know about it.

At the beginning of the course, returning teachers told of how their year had been transformed by last year’s training. By relaxing more with the kids, giving their students space to contribute, planning classes without attachment to outcome, they found themselves with new energy at the end of each day, their passion for teaching revived, their relationship with the kids improved and their excitement about their profession at record high levels. They reported that the harder they worked to create magic and mystery in their class, the more energy they got back from the kids. I see teachers who go to other conferences and summer institutes and come back with a couple of new ideas, but nothing approaching the total transformation I witness year after year in the Orff training. I repeat. If there’s a better deal in town, I’d like to know about it.

How many more ways can I say the same thing over and over again? To be happy giving happiness to others— at affordable rates— is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s like being Santa Claus without the big belly and reindeer maintenance. Maybe the next time my airplane seatmate asks me what I do, I’ll simply say, “I’m a Minister of Happiness.”

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