95: No More Bad Days

95: No More Bad Days

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

No More Bad Days

A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition.

~William Arthur Ward

At the classroom door a young mother tugged on her reluctant preschooler, who scowled at me, his nursery school teacher. Looking defeated, the mom apologized. “He’s having a bad day.” Within this apology was an unspoken warning: “Please, coddle my poor little child.”

I murmured my standard line: “We’ll make sure you have a good time at school, sweetie, and Mom, you have a good time, too.” Sometimes this worked and the child soon could be seen happily engaged in the “free play” that began each morning. Often, however, the child sulked for the entire hour and a half of class while giving the assistant teacher and me meaningful looks that conveyed, “Don’t mess with me. I’m having a bad day.”

It hit me that particular morning this was occurring too often in our classroom. Further, not only were we teachers catering to bad moods, we were encouraging them by paying special attention to sulky children. The parents had condemned the children to a “bad day” because one or two things had gone wrong in the morning before school. We teachers, after an initial attempt to cheer up the child, allowed the black cloud to hover over that little person. No one, I mused, should consider him or herself destined to a whole Bad Day.

Conferring with my assistant, I changed the lesson plan. She went to the storeroom to find a large roll of paper while I called the children together for “group time.” Instead of singing a nursery school oldie, “Good morning to you, good morning to you, we’re all in our place with sunshiny faces,” I sang out “Bad morning to you, bad morning to you, we’re all in our places with mean, grumpy faces.” The children laughed at this but they didn’t think it a bit funny as I read their favorite book, Margaret Wise Brown’s famed Goodnight Moon.

“Bad night moon, bad night room, bad night cow jumping over the moon . . . .”

I read in a flat, sad voice. The children kept correcting me supplying “good” every time I said “bad.” I knew I’d made my point when one sweet little girl, looking as if she were about to cry, pleaded, “Please say ‘good’, Mrs. Marks, please, please.”

That led to a discussion of why we like to hear “the good word” more than “the bad word” and why everyone needs to have “good days as well as good nights.” The children agreed we wanted happy faces and good things. My assistant had used the large paper to make a banner, proclaiming NO MORE BAD DAYS AT JACK AND JILL PRESCHOOL, which the children decorated with brightly colored markers. We posted this in the hall by the door for the parents to see at pick-up time. Each child explained the banner to the returning parent.

In the monthly newsletter for parents, I explained our new philosophy of not allowing our children or ourselves to wallow in bad moods. The parents readily accepted this, and in no time I saw more smiles on their faces and the preschoolers they brought to school.

Concurrently, I discussed what we’d done in our class with the whole staff. All agreed childhood should be a happy time and that our jobs included modeling positive attitudes. Preschool teachers are known for being cheery, but we agreed to make an extra effort to show joy in our interaction with parents, the children, and each other. Good days truly became contagious!

The success of our happiness initiative became apparent in the classroom when we sang an old favorite: “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round.” In one stanza the children loved to sing, “The babies on the bus go ‘wah, wah, wah . . . wah, wah, wah.’” A sharp little lad suggested, “Let’s make the babies be happy.” From then on, we sang, “The babies on the bus go ‘goo, goo, goo . . . goo, goo goo.’”

Though retired from early childhood teaching for many years, I still make a supreme effort to avoid “Bad Days.” As an aging senior, my days hold their share of “bumps and bruises,” but I try not to let the bad moments override all the good ones so easy to find in any given day. When I start to feel a little down, I remember all those Jack and Jill preschoolers with their “sunshiny faces.”

~Alice Marks

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