The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business people. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you cannot learn in a classroom. We want to thank our interviewee for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.
I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz, Monday.
- Can you please tell everyone your name?
Danna “Banana” Thomas
2. Tell us about your business and what you do?
I’m the founder of Happy Teacher Revolution, a Baltimore-born, the international movement with the mission to organize and conduct support groups for teachers in the field of mental health and wellness to increase teacher happiness, retention, and professional sustainability. I train “Revolutionaries” around the world to initiate support groups in their own communities. As a proud survivor of mental illness, my own teachers in high school and college were my heroes who saved my life. They were my first-responders who recognized the warning signs and encouraged me to seek treatment. I became a teacher because of the incredible educators who had an impact on my life, and I believe that if we support the happiness of educators, then they can continue supporting the lives of the children in their classrooms.
3. Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?
I did not just want to become an entrepreneur. I HAD to become an entrepreneur. As a Baltimore City Public School teacher, I saw first-hand the stress and burnout myself, and fellow educators were facing. My colleagues and I were grappling with vicarious trauma, caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue, workplace bullying, and harassment from the administration. I felt like the only people I could turn to were my fellow teachers. I wanted to create a community for teachers to connect around wellness strategies while simultaneously offering a professional development tool to support the social-emotional learning of educators. Thus, Happy Teacher Revolution was born. Our first Happy Teacher Revolution meeting was held in October 2015, and now there are Revolutionaries initiating meetings in 18 states across the US. Our largest international site is in Dakar, Senegal and over 800 teachers have attended a Happy Teacher Revolution meeting since our inception just three years ago. I left the classroom after seven years to run Happy Teacher Revolution full-time because I realized I had created a tool that could help the professional sustainability of my fellow teachers. Ultimately, I believe I can help even more students by supporting their teachers.
4. What are the challenging aspects of running a business?
“New level, new devil.” I had to get over the feelings of crippling self-doubt every time I faced a new challenge, and instead shifted my mindset to view everything as an opportunity to learn and grow. Each moment of progress leaves ahead another part of the road to continue the journey. Celebrate growth and accomplishments, and recognize how far you’ve come. I find myself always celebrating, even the little wins because it helps propel me further in a positive direction.
5. What do you love most about your job?
I love advocating for teachers. I am so honored to be able to run an organization full-time that prioritizes the mental health and wellness of educators, especially because our teachers today are so often overlooked and under-appreciated. The ongoing messages I receive from teachers from all over the world offering words of support and kindness truly keep me going. I love talking with teachers and celebrating with them when they share with me their achievements in self-care, wellness, and how prioritizing their happiness has a ripple effect outwards into all other aspects of their lives.
6. How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
I enjoy incorporating self-care into the workday. So often we think of self-care occurring outside the parameters of the workday. However, I believe the real fun and creativity lies in integrating wellness throughout the entire day. I’ve recently begun to incorporate mindfulness meditation during transitions in my day, whether it is before lunch or when I’m shifting gears between projects/tasks. It has helped me feel more centered, less stressed, and more in-tune with everything going on around me. In particular, I’ve enjoyed using the app Calm to help me start this wellness practice during at work!
7. What would one piece of advice that you give to a new business owner?
Stop what you’re doing right now…right this very moment you are reading this blog entry…and give yourself a high-five. Yes, I know it looks like you’re just clapping alone…but the point I’m trying to make is that it is really tough to decide to start a business and the courage you’ve already demonstrated is awesome. The amount of vulnerability necessary to initiate a business deserves applause, even if you’re in the very beginning stages of building your organization. My favorite quote that I find myself coming back to again and again as I continue my work with Happy Teacher Revolution comes from Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Give yourself a high-five for being the one in the arena, the one willing to dare greatly.
Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web: