Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Act of Happiness...

Disclaimer #1: The words below are not a reflection of anyone in particular, just a teacher mom who over analyzes children's movies.
Disclaimer #2: If you have not seen the Trolls movie, this post will spoil it!

The new Trolls movie is very popular at my house and is watched almost daily. In my constant watching, I picked up some themes and concepts that go hand and hand with not only teaching, but life in general.

Troll Tree: In the beginning sequence of the film, we are told that the Troll Tree was where the trolls lived in happiness. Trolls are insanely happy creatures whose main jobs were singing, dancing and hugging. 
Bergen: The Troll Tree and its happy inhabitants were in direct contrast of their environment, which was covered with beings called Bergen. Bergen were miserable creatures that could not seem to find happiness. 
Until...
they ate a troll. This made the Bergen happy for a moment. The people of Bergentown then made a holiday in which they ate trolls and therefore became happy for one day of the year.
At the end of the movie, the two main Bergens, King Gristle and Bridget discover, with the help of the Troll, Poppy, that true happiness was always inside of them. They just needed someone to help them bring it out. 
Troll Losing Happiness: Branch, one of the key characters in the movie, is a Troll. However, he does not look like the others around him. Branch lost his color and his happiness due to him feeling blame for his grandmother being captured and eaten by a Bergen. 
At the end of the movie, Poppy reaches a point where she feels hopeless. In this moment, she also loses her color and the happy disposition that goes with it. 
Sadness in the Troll Pot: Poppy has good reason to lose her hope in being happy.  She just learned that she had been betrayed by a good friend and all of her other friends and family have been thrown into a pot that is being carried to the Troll Feast. 
Regardless of the reason, the draining of Poppy's color triggers a chain reaction in the others around her. A once colorful pot of Trolls, becomes a vessel full of black and gray beings.
Branch is actually the hero in this scenario and sings everyone back into happiness. (It's my favorite part of the film!)

As teachers, we create a happiness in our classroom. True, our rooms are a safe environment for students to be themselves and reach their learning potential. However, our rooms are also a haven for us to create our own procedures and learning environment. I am not saying that we are all about singing, dancing, and hugging. What I am saying is that a true teacher is happiest when they are doing what they are meant to do, and that is making learning an interactive and exciting experience for students. Taking risks and making educational magic is what we do!

Our positive environment and learning happiness is safe within our Troll Tree. Yet, we cannot spend the entire day in our classrooms. There are times throughout the day that we must venture out and when we do, we run the risk of Bergens, those who struggle with happiness and positivity. They seem to feed on negative energy and spread it wherever they go. If we are not careful, our upbeat feelings about our lessons and student interactions could be eaten alive by the Bergens among us.

We may also encounter our Troll companions that, for whatever reason, have lost their color. It could be an event out of their control at home, a failed lesson, or an overall bad day. If we are not careful, whatever is bothering them has the powerful ability to drain our color as well. We might have had a great morning but that all can change when either a Bergen or colorless Troll crosses our path. The true danger here, and the point of it all, happens when you return to your Troll Tree. If you've been drained of your color and happiness, it can cause a horrible chain reaction in your classroom.
To combat this, we must remember that true happiness is inside each of us and sometimes we just need help finding it.

I read a poem to my students at the beginning of the year called "Thumbprint".  My favorite line is "I make my own sun and rain." I constantly highlight this line to my students, telling them that they can push past their circumstances and control their future and outlook. Yet there are moments, when I am out of my Troll Tree, that I fail to take my own advice. I become drained and my forecast becomes cloudy. I need to be more aware of this and use my weapons against the beasts of unhappiness. These could include: moments alone doing something that a makes me happy, talking to a Troll in my life that can bring back the color, listening to music, etc. Your list could be very different from mine, yet the mission is the same. As stated earlier, happiness is inside of each of us. It is our job to uncover it. As a teacher, this is especially important because we have a pot of precious Trolls among every day that depend on us to keep the happiness alive.  Also, schools cannot be successful when the happiness is closed off in the Troll Trees (classrooms). We must be like Poppy and promote happiness and positivity wherever we go. This creates a culture where success is inevitable!