I began my Saturday morning as I do most weeks; chatting with the lovely people who attend the 8:00 am yoga class I teach at my local Y. After catching up on our week, we sat on our mats, closed our eyes, deepened our breath and then I posed a question to consider during our practice: Where do you find joy in your life? As we moved through yoga poses, I kept coming back to this question. When I got home later that day, I sat down with my writer’s notebook and began making a joy list. Images of witnessing my children’s confidence grow on the soccer field, relaxing with my partner in the evening, and practicing yoga came to mind. Then I thought about where joy lives in my teaching life.
Where do we find joy in our teaching lives?
The weeks leading up to the holidays can leave us feeling frazzled. We feel pressure to finish up teaching units while finding time to engage in holiday crafts and school wide celebrations. Perhaps the biggest challenge is managing the range of emotions that this season inspires: excitement for those students anticipating gifts and vacations and sadness for those whose season does not mirror the one presented on TV commercials. These realities can make finding joy in our teaching lives difficult. What can we do? The benefits of having a gratitude practice is widely recognized. What if we cultivate a joy practice?
I spent a few days trying this out by noticing and jotting down moments in my teaching day that brought me joy. Here are a few:
- James, a student who started the school year declaring that he hated reading, now laughs out loud when his eyes meet the page and bursts with excitement to share the latest fascinating fact he’s learned about animals.
- Observing David, a former 4th grade teacher, as he guides his Kindergarten students to help a sock puppet named Betty apply her knowledge of letters and sounds to her writing.
- The voice of a striving reader named Marcus who said to me: “I didn’t hear you come in to the room, I was so lost in my book.”
For me, writing these joyful moments down helps me to hold onto them. Just as with a gratitude list, getting in the habit of writing down joyful moments trains my mind to notice them during the day.
How can we guide our students to find joy in their day?
How can we help our students find joy in their lives and connect to the true gifts of this season? What about through reading, discussing and sharing books about kindness and giving?
This idea came after reading aloud Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones to my colleague Beth’s third grade class. Students spoke about the book’s examples of kindness, giving and being grateful for the gifts in you life. After class, Beth and I grew an idea to gather picture books about giving and teach her third grade class to book talk them. Our hope is that these texts will inspire conversations of joy and the true gifts of the season with the added benefit of helping them build a reading list for the upcoming winter break.
So, I invite you to…
- Cultivate a joy practice of your own.
- Consider ways to bring that practice to your students.
Please let us know what you try and what you discovered!