I walked into my tiny little classroom down the back of the school and found my teaching assistant, Jenny standing on a chair, stringing green crepe paper across the ceiling. She’d moved all the tables and chairs to the edges of the room, and there were strange piles of objects clumped together in a snake formation.
I smiled and said ‘What have you done now?’
She whipped around and said ‘Oh! I figured it would be super fun if we set the classroom up like We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. See here, these pillows are rocks! We can’t go over them; we can’t go under them, we have to AROUND them!’.
I adored working with her. Teachers assistants get paid peanuts for doing extraordinary work. Maintaining enthusiasm for a job where you get little respect and even less money is something I’ve seen a lot of assistants struggle with but not Jenny. She showed up every single day; her hair beautifully blow dried into these gorgeous Farrah Fawcett style waves. She always wore lacy tops with skinny jeans and little wedge shoes. Most people who work in special needs dress like farmers because it’s pretty grubby work a lot of the time, but Jenny always looked like she was going to an afternoon tea party. The students adored her; she turned everything into a fun game. At lunchtime, she’d turn on the radio and listen to the star signs and translate them for our little class.
‘Did you hear that Sarah? They just said that Capricorns should try something difficult today because their chances of success are high! I think we should ride the bike without training wheels today? What do you think?’
I always looked forward to working with her, because she made every day an adventure.
I’ve always loved the saying ‘be the type of person you want to meet’ and if you’re finding your days are lacking adventure or joy, or you simply want to have more fun at work here are a few things you can do to sort that out.
1. Make dance breaks mainstream
If you’re at work or at home and you’re not feeling it, you need to get on the dance break bandwagon. Crank some T-swift, Beyonce, Led Zeppelin, Queen, whatever floats your boat and go nuts for 3 to 5 minutes. Embarrassment is what stops people from doing this and shame is just about the most significant adventure killer around. You can do this by yourself, with your office buddy, with your kids. I even used to do it with my classes at school. Dance breaks get your blood pumping, they elevate your mood, and they’re a killer bonding exercise. Even if you just do them at the end of your morning tea and lunch break to gear yourself back up for a session of work. And for real, get over your embarrassment. No one cares. Dance like no one is watching.
2. Designate themes for days of the week
Almost a decade ago, I worked in an office with a woman who ended up being one of my favourite people. Our job was repetitive and boring, so we had these little rituals. We were both very health conscious so on Monday and Wednesday, I’d bring salads for both of us for lunch, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, she’d bring salads. Coffee breaks were our favourite time of day, and we’d set timers and goals to complete specific tasks before we were allowed to take our breaks. This was around the time that internet shopping became huge and we’d have our purchases delivered to our office, but we always set goals for completing our work before we were allowed to open our parcels. We had Motivation Monday where we’d set our goals for the week and Funky Junky Friday where we were allowed to have a treat at morning tea time but only if we’d made good choices leading up to that day. Our little rituals and routines made the job so much more pleasant and made being stuck at a desk all day, somewhat bearable.
3. Make a lunch date with someone you don’t usually hang out with
Monotony is the opposite of adventure, so avoid it at all costs. Sit with someone else at lunch today or go and meet someone for a coffee. Bring a deck of cards and play a game at lunchtime, or do the quiz in the paper as a group. I used to work at a school where we did the quiz from the Sydney Morning Herald every lunchtime and it was brutal. The prize was a Freddo Frog but there was only one given out every lunch and everyone wanted it. I’d bolt from classroom to the staffroom to get a good seat at the quiz table. I get very enthusiastic about things like this. It was so much fun and just a lovely thing to look forward to every day.
4. Start a lunchtime power walking group at work
If you spend all day sitting at your computer, then you sit at a lunch table, then go back to your computer you’re going to want to stab yourself in the face with a fork just to feel something other than mind-numbing boredom. Yes, getting changed is pain and sometimes you’ve only got time for a 20-minute walk, but it will change your afternoon. Get a whole group together and make it a fun activity that everyone gets excited about. You could join a walking charity and raise money for a good cause or track your steps to reach an office-wide goal. The trick for the success of activities like this is to make everyone care about it so get your enthusiasm boner on and be the leader of enthusiasm that your office needs.
5. Watch a movie in the middle of the week
When you work full time (as most people do), weeknights tend to consist of half watching whatever is on TV while you scroll through your phone. At least once a week, Mr Smaggle and I watch something ‘on purpose’. So on a Wednesday we might turn off all the lights, make cups of tea, banish our phones and watch a movie we’ve wanted to watch for ages. It just breaks up the week and makes us use our evenings rather than using them for passive and ineffective recovery from our jobs. When I worked at a high school my staffroom mates and I would watch the same movie on the same night and then have a movie debrief the next lunch time. It got pretty heated when Luke from the Maths department said he didn’t like Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. Not the brightest thing to say to a bunch of English and Drama teachers but it was hilarious watching the head of English department lose his shit and scream ‘KATE WINSLET IS CINEMATIC PERFEECTION!!!’ out the staffroom window.
Also there’s a brand spanking new episode of Straight & Curly live today and it’s all about getting out of your own way. You can listen here or on your favourite podcast app.