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Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality

Putting the “Happy” in “Happy New Year”

woman's reflection in a framed print reading choose kindness

Happy New Year! It’s what most of us say this time of the year, isn’t it? If you asked, “What do I mean when I say that?” what might your answer be? It’s easy to fall in step with using these common phrases without the deliberate thought behind the words. What really got me thinking about this were the reactions to a recent post of mine on Facebook:

I choose to see 2020 not as the year of canceled plans, but as the year where the world stood still long enough for us to see the things we need to work at mending.

Some comments were positive, while others questioned the ability to have this attitude in such harsh times. One person even commented that they wished more people felt this way—that’s the comment that got me thinking! Do we have the ability to create happiness? I have to believe we can! It surely isn’t as simple as choosing “happy”  but might there be things we can practice along the way? Kindness seems like a good place to start and an effective way to create what we would want in return.

The year 2020 gave us all a lot to think about and ample time to reflect. In my role at Center for the Collaborative Classroom (formerly known as Developmental Studies Center) I get to walk the talk as I partner with both in-school and afterschool programs across Southern California. Seeing the work firsthand leads me with greater purpose and reminds me of what we’ve seen to be true. Our research, beginning in the 1980s, has shown that by investing in and focusing on social and emotional learning (SEL), we can improve the lives of the children that we work with. The words we say and the choices we make indeed have an impact on others, the world, and ourselves. While SEL programs are powerful and helpful resources to support working with kids, the truth is that the power and light come from within. For those of us who work with children, our job is to ignite their light and nurture it from an ember into a flame! This is the magic I get to be part of.

In March of 2020, the world was flipped upside down. Collaborative Classroom immediately went into action to address the SEL needs of our students and to support our partners in focusing on what really matters: relationships. To this end, we created the Reconnecting and Rebuilding Toolkit. These grab-and-go lessons are a complimentary resource to help support adults with deeper conversations that help children grow into kind, compassionate, and thriving citizens. Building a safe and supportive learning environment is of critical importance now more than ever! Here is an example of a week focusing on kindness:

You can easily download these lessons by clicking on this link, or you can locate the Toolkit on the CDE website under “SEL Lessons for the Virtual Classroom.” Please know that Collaborative Classroom continues to be here in solidarity and support alongside you.

Before I close, I have a simple request. As we all continue to walk through 2021, my greatest hope and New Year’s wish is that each day we cultivate happiness for ourselves and express it out toward others. We can do this work by choosing kindness. We will get through this together. The lessons in the Toolkit can support you in addressing the hurt, lend a hand in having conversations to deal with the pain, and ultimately aid us all in cultivating the “Happy” in “Happy New Year.” The act of choosing kindness in 2021 is my commitment to myself and to the universe. Will you join me?

For breakfast, I had Greek yogurt with frozen mixed berries, a teaspoon of granola, and a dollop of honey.  (But nothing EVER happens before my morning coffee!)

Author: @rsolis

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