The first time someone asked me that here, I didn’t know how to react. Coming from the public schools of New York City, where people are just trying to make it through each day in survival mode much of the time — nobody was ever really worried if I was “Happy.” I might have been asked if I was “Ok,” or “hanging in there,” but happy? Sure, I was happy sometimes, but nobody explicitly checked. Often, it was too much to hope. The happy moments were often fleeting: a grateful student, success in and out of the classroom, and the jokes of a colleague who really knew how to derail a staff meeting in his oh so lovable way. But they’d soon be replaced by an immediate crisis of sorts.
And the people in my new life here are filled with so much positivity and energy. A friend recently called me an emotional vampire. True, I do suck in the energy around me so when teachers are in chaos and crisis, demoralized and attacked — even if I am not, I feel it. Same for the students. Here, it’s different. Something about the warm Ligurian sun, the pace of life, the wine, the cheese, the wine. The wine. The wine. It’s always flowing, even during the first day of orientation at lunch. I love this!
Seriously, it’s not all sunshine and roses here, though there are plenty of both. The school is building and growing, recovering from some bad times in the past and moving forward. Yet we are all moving together. The director said, “Do not worry. And if you worry, tell us and we will worry together.” The motto of NY is worry. And the motto of NYC Public Schools seems to be worry or else we’ll give you something to worry about. At the end of the meeting, he always checks, “Are you happy?” What a goal.
The motto doesn’t just seem to apply here in school. When we were out and about in Genoa, a colleague asked me if I was happy after lunch. Another asked me if I was happy while I was sorting through phone dilemmas. When I said, “Ahh, no,” with more than a bit of that edgy NY tension, he immediately jumped to help.
Is everything perfect? No. Am I happy? Absolutely!