Teacher Joy in 2020
Confession: I am a hoarder. Specifically, a digital hoarder documenting my teaching career. I try to capture “Horton Happenings” each day in the “House of Hustle” – whether it be photographing of our individual and/or collective achievements, videoing the essence of the classroom machine in progress as an exemplar for future tribes to emulate, or audio recording of us a spontaneous jam-session of me dropping a few bars of a rap about something going down in social studies or science just to keep the kids on their toes. I guess you could call my approach as one of a documentarian-of-sort, an orchestra conductor, or maybe an artist – constructing what a sum of many intricate developmental parts is in what a triumphant procession of what amounts to an academic school year.
With that being said, I recently stumbled upon a true jewel of a photograph from over a decade ago. Upon seeing – and subsequently smiling at the photo, I was all-in-my-feels and satisfied in what I believe “joy” looks like. I was caught having the time-of-my-life rapping and singing with my students in what was a cosmic call-and-response that has been employed for thousands of years. A miserable teacher can be an academic weapon of mass destruction. I hold onto the truth that a teacher that seeks, finds, and exercises a contagious sense of joy within their profession is an academic weapon of mass-CONSTRUCTION. Enthusiasm is so contagious. The kids are such distinguished sleuths in knowing which teachers care and which don’t. The photo captured a moment of professional innocence, as I was deeply engaged at the time amidst my college-concluding student-teaching semester. I was inexperienced. I was unabashed. I was an expert risk-taker. The snapshot was of me trying to rap about the branches of the government (totally on the fly mind-you) with my trusty 6-string guitar and a few chords I could assemble. I have always tried - above everything - to always hold a sincere barometer of my students’ engagement within the lessons that I would ever present. My host-teacher was entering her 40th year in education and challenged me to cultivate timeless and innovative instructional practices that I could always rely on. She always wanted me to have a sense of vigilant pursuit of my students, to enhance every classroom’s collective academic achievement that I would ever encounter.
I am not the best disseminator of advice, but I can share with you that “joy does not just simply happen to us.” In our classrooms, we have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. Teachers that pursue the joys of teaching and learning will find that their tribe of students will find themselves in the pursuit of daily “joys” all around them. Teachers need three basic things to find joy within their profession: students to love, something to do, and something to hope for.
How will you choose JOY in the new year? What are some things that you can intentionally say NO to? I start with that because teachers are often guilty of saying "YES" to too much. What is ONE THING that you know your students hate and their resistance is driving you crazy, too? Let go of that and try something new. Relationships over test scores. This is the key to finding that joy. What are some investments that you can make with your precious time to intentionally say YES to joy in your classroom in the new year?