Teacher Talk: Hygge
This Saturday, if you're like most teachers, you find yourself away from school, maybe resting, maybe preparing for the festivities of Christmas at your home, maybe traveling. It's a time to recoup, to cozy in and take stock of the year, to recognize the warmth of the community you've sought to support in your classroom and the one around you in your school.
Except that, if you're like most teachers, taking this time for yourself can be tricky. You may feel more comfortable caring for others, trained as you are to be professionally generous. If it's harder for you to think of the ways in which you can care for yourself, maybe you can start by thinking of the ways in which you can contribute to a caring community around you. The Danish concept of "hygge," (pronounced hue-gah,) the coziness that draws you to value the small simple pleasures of life. Hygge, in many ways, reflects the best of the mindful, simple pace of the Montessori classroom, that draws our attention to small beauties and values the connection between members of the community.
We approach hygge in the classroom, with the steady pacing of our teaching, the quiet observations and the mindful movements we enact. We see it when children care for each other, when they offer a guest a cup of tea or sit quietly observing the fishtank. So what might hygge look like if you were trying to implement it for your faculty? As you prepare for the new year, think of the ways in which you might individually or collectively reconsider the "way we do things here," to be able to create a community of adults that is as warm, welcoming and responsive as the communities of children we serve.
Think about the administrative tasks that may interfere with faculty's connectedness: Are your faculty meetings mostly bureaucratic policy-reminders, or do you allow time for people to connect in more authentic ways? Are there documents or paperwork have-to's that you can schedule time to do together, in a local coffee house or in someone's home, to be able to get the tasks done in a more humane setting?
Think about food and drink, and the importance of breaking bread together: We know the children need to share snack together, to have time to eat together and to enjoy the human connection that comes when you share a meal. Can you share breakfast with your faculty once a week? If you're an administrator, can you take some time each day to visit each classroom and sit down for a cup of tea with a teacher? Can you model adults taking time to make eye contact, to enjoy conversation or to share reflective silence, and model valuing that as a practice for children?
Move, mindfully: We spend endless hours in our classrooms in repetitive motions. Can you host a walking club with your faculty, or a standing yoga class once a week or once every other week to enjoy together? Can you invite your faculty once a month for a Saturday hike together, to take a bike ride or walk through a local garden? Can you regularly schedule down-time, welcoming faculty and their families to get to know each other outside of school, in nature and in movement together?
Make time for the hobbies you share: Maybe it's an after school knitting club, or a monthly book club or a regular outing to a new music venue or to an art gallery together. We need time away from our schools, but we also need time with our school people away from our work. Montessori is a human practice, and while we may want to spend our weekends "turning off" from our work, we can make that work easier if we don't also turn off from the people we share it with.
Create space for sleep: Yes, at home, but not just at home. Can you prepare a cozy space in your faculty room to nestle in with a book or take a quick cat nap? Can you prepare your faculty space to be as warm and welcoming as the classrooms, lowering the overhead lights in preference for soft lamps and natural lighting? Can you choose soft colors instead of industrial white? Can you offer hand lotion, essential oil diffusers or soft music to evoke ease? We need space to get the paper cut to size and the paperwork filled out comprehensively, but we also need space to be gentle and vulnerable with each other at work, and we can prepare environments to support that.
Finally, create space for gratitude: Write thank-you notes to faculty members when you notice the good work they do. Offer tokens of gratitude: fresh tea leaves for the classroom or an opportunity to take a longer lunch break while you cover the classroom for a teacher. Make sure you acknowledge the good work teachers do every day... the hard days may draw our attention more easily, but the trust and interconnectedness we create on the good days is what defines the real work. Most of the time, things go right. Notice and acknowledge. Our work asks us to prepare environments within which communities of children can learn to rely on each other, at ease and in comfort, as they become who they are to become. What a gift to prepare the same environment for the adults who serve children, that we may learn to rely on each other, at ease and in comfort, as we become who we are to become.