The Power of a Smile

So this week I want to talk about the power of a smile. I know it’s been a difficult week with what’s been happening in Boston, and with yesterday’s earthquake in China’s Sichuan province, and I get that smiling might just be the last thing on your mind these days……..but I believe that it’s during times like these when a purposeful smile is needed the most. I’ve been reading a lot lately about the contagious qualities of a smile, or an attitude, and how a person’s mood directly impacts the lives of others around them. There have been many interesting studies conducted over the past few years which speak to the magic and power of a single smile, and how something so seemingly simple and effortless can inspire, affect, and set the tone of a person’s day. As you all know by now, I’m a climate and culture guy, and I believe strongly that the positive ethos of an environment and faculty is the cornerstone of a great school. A smile breaks down barriers, it diffuses tense or contentious situations, it fosters positive intent, and it inspires a student’s or colleague’s perception of who you are and how you feel about them.

One of my favorite all time song lyrics comes from Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s, “Wooden Ships”………it goes “if you smile at me I will understand, because that is something everybody, everywhere does in the same language”, and that rings particularly true for our environment. When you start the day with a smile you affect your entire class…..and their day……and their approach to learning. Your smile is contagious, and if you take moment at the beginning of every school day to really look around you……with your eyes truly open……you’ll see that it’s almost impossible not to smile at something.  I love to start my days greeting the kids as they come off the buses, and to watch them sleepily meander their way across the courtyard. I love to watch their faces light up when they see their friends, and it makes me smile when they wish me good morning and react to the goofy comments that I make as they pass me by. Our students are beautiful young adults who are trying their best to find their way in the world, and if that doesn’t inspire you or make you smile then I don’t know what will.

We had the 5th Graders up in the Middle School last week going through the “6th Grader for a day” transition event, and I watched them intently all week to see how they were doing. I also made a point of asking them how they enjoyed their experience and almost every one of them commented on how friendly and happy everyone seemed to be. It made me so proud to know that the environment that we’ve all created together in the Middle School is one of smiles, happiness, support, and kindness. I want to make it clear to everyone that I’m writing this week about smiles not because I feel like we are lacking in this area, but because I want to celebrate how pervasive the smiles seem to be. I want to essentially thank you for the attitudes that you bring to work everyday, and to the effort that you’re all making to give our incredible kids happy and healthy experiences. A mood is contagious…. so is a smile…. so is an attitude, and a student’s want and approach to learning is directly affected by the way that we interact with them each day. Keep smiling everyone, and keep looking for those silver linings which make it easy to find joy in our daily lives. I know it’s been a hard week with all that went on around the world……find the positive in it all, and look for inspiration in the beauty that’s all around us, and in the faces and hearts of our kids……you’ll be sure to find a smile or two in there. Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…….
A smile is something you can’t give away; it always comes back to you – Maya Angelou

TED Talk – Ron Gutman (The hidden power of Smiling)
http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_gutman_the_hidden_power_of_smiling.html

NPR Sound bite and Article –
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97848789

The Untapped Power of Smiling –
http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2011/03/22/the-untapped-power-of-smiling/

The Power of a Smile –
http://www.squidoo.com/power-of-a-smile

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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