“Lesson of the day: Creating your own joy is work. Some days are better than others but everyday done with intention is more than worth the effort…regardless of the outcome.” ~Rafranz Davis
I love teaching. I love working with our future and helping them find themselves along the way. I enjoy working with kids in the “range of the strange.” I am a middle school teacher. (I still can’t get used to saying that. I thought I would stick to those short, cute, elementary kiddos forever, but I am hooked and middle school is where I am meant to be.)
Although I love my job as an instructional coach and a middle school level educator, I am not going to profess that I love every day equally. Some days are just tough. Students have bad days, teachers have bad days, and the outside world makes teaching tough too.
Finding my joy at work is important to me. In the face of a very tough day, I look to the students I teach and the teachers I work alongside to find that joy. It’s really easy to get mired in the muck and mess that happens in, and to, schools. There are not many places on earth where we combine random groups of 25-30 teenage kids in a room and find pure bliss in coexistence.
Let me rephrase this, my dream come true would be placing 25-30 teenage students in and room without a single conflict, but we all know this is unrealistic. So we need to focus on, and spotlight, the successes that happen daily instead of dwelling on the moments that are imperfections.
We need to push through the mundane to find a student who has moved mountains to grow, has stepped outside of their comfort zone and tried something new, shared something special to them with us, or find that new student that just needs to be seen and send them a smile or kind word. The brilliant smiles that we get in return are founts of joy.
If you are looking for it, there is joy to be found. Sadly, the adverse is true as well. If you are looking for the “horrible, terrible, no good, very bad…” well, that will be there too. I am not advocating for turning a blind eye on the bad, because we need to see it to fix it. However I am encouraging us, as educators, to look beyond the bad and find the joy in our jobs, schools, and students. Remind yourself every day why you chose to become an educator and then find a daily example that cements that why in your mind.
This week has been a tough week to teach. Students are scared. Parents are petrified. Teachers cannot enter classrooms without mentally outlining their plans to protect students as they evade an unknown school invasion. This happens every. single. time. there is a school shooting. Sadly these instances are becoming far too frequent and solutions are far too few.
In addressing this latest school tragedy with students this week, there have been moments of frustration, fear, and shockingly… joy. I had to allow myself to see through the emotional subterfuge and angst to hear students voicing their frustrations and fears. This brought me joy. No, not their fears, but the fact that our students are not complacent and do not accept school violence as another uncontrollable reality. They want solutions. They want their safety. They want to explore and find ways to solve big issues. Hearing students share what it feels like when they are bullied, angry, or stressed and don’t have someone to share with was another joy for me. It made me realize that our students are aware of their emotions and want ways to healthily handle them.
Listening and watching my fellow educators as they put curriculum on pause to discuss heavy topics with teenagers who are hard audiences and admit their own fears brought me joy too. No I don’t find joy in the need to pause, but I do find joy in the fact that as educators we were responsive to our students’ needs and didn’t ignore the elephant in the room. We dropped our water lines and got real. Our students respond to real… every day… every time.
There is no joy in school violence. However there was joy in witnessing local police departments making their presence known in our schools. Seeing these officers drive through our campuses, walk through our halls, and pass through our offices. We can’t predict the future and we can’t read minds. Evil exists and we’ve seen the results once it’s visited schools too many times, but there is magic in partnerships between schools, parents, students, and the community. There is magic in our local police departments networking and working tirelessly to keep our students safe as they learn.
Today was not an easy day, but I sought to find the joy in my job. And I did; again, again, and again.