An Open Letter To Teachers

Dear Teachers,

As you start your new school year there is one word that will get you through the uncertainty and the worry.  It’s the same word that is the heart of educating.  That word is ‘joy’.  No, it’s not the happiness that children bring.  It’s the happiness that you bring because it inspires and ignites the mind and the heart of children.  Yes, that’s how it works.

Children come to you with big eyes, looking at you to teach them.  They don’t know what to think.  They want to learn, yet what they really want is to be inspired to learn.  That is where you can make a difference.

What do you like?  Because whatever it is, from math to music, that ‘like’ will become your best buddy, your guiding star, and the foundation to teach all the things that you like.  It will also become a portal to help you teach the things you may not enjoy.  If you know that every day you have some window of time to teach what you love, then you become an educator.  You go beyond teaching curriculum; you teach the child.

Do you like reading?  Does Because of Winn-Dixie or Charlotte’s Web make your heart jump?  Well, carry that book around and read it aloud on the playground, in the lunchroom, or at the bus stop.  If this is your passion, children will know, and they will listen.  They will learn.

Do you like science?  Carry a tuning fork, magnet, magnifying glass or flashlight in your pocket.  Pick up interesting pieces of nature and explore them with children.  This is one of the fundamental constants for learning.  If you are grounded in nature and science, bring your curiosity and discovery to the classroom and playground; then the world will open up for children.

Do you love music?  Sing your favorite songs, sing the words to a book, sing poetry, or just sing the words that you say.  If this is your passion children will know.  They’ll listen and learn.  Introduce children to the music you love.  I bring my record player and old albums into the classroom.  Some years they love Beethoven, other years the Beatles.  The point is, they will love the music because you do.

Do you love art?  Don’t be afraid to use real artist’s watercolors when introducing art.  Children enjoy learning about famous pieces of art, too.  If you treat a child like an artist and treat the work s/he creates like a masterpiece, the results are remarkable.  When a child has created something and is incredibly proud, ask the child to give the art a title and record that to the work of art.  This simple affirmation has done more for the confidence and character of children than most anything I have done.

You may only like one thing, but that alone will open the door to help you teach the rest.

We all know that the emotional and social pieces for children need to be ‘there’ before effective learning takes place.  Well, flip-flop that fact from the child to the teacher.  If you the teacher are not grounded in an emotional and social component of educating, then how in the world can you get your message across to children?  You have to share your love and passions.  That’s your joy.  In that way, you are sharing you.  And, all that children want to know is that you love them and love what you are teaching.  If they know that, the floodgates will open to learning.

Maya Angelou was right when she said, “…people will never forget how you made them feel”.  The children I have taught for decades often return to school to visit.  They can’t put a finger on what it was in my classroom, but they come back.  Joy is the magic word.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, joy, Teaching young children, wonder, young children and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

81 Responses to An Open Letter To Teachers

  1. Excellent advice, Jennie. “Open the door to leaning,” is the way I would put it. 😀

  2. Ritu says:

    Oh I love this Jennie! So true!!!!

  3. Léa says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Oh to have such a teacher… you are a treasure. I shall have to send your link to a dear friend. He was one of my professors at University. Now he is a cherished friend. That is how David taught and he was brimming with joy and at 87, he still is. 🙂

  4. srbottch says:

    Excellent advice and approach, Jennie. As DiNero (not one of my favs) said to Billy Crystal in ‘Analyze This’, “You’re good! You are good!”

  5. Darlene says:

    Joy is the magic word. It just needs to be spread around. And you certainly do that, Jennie. That’s why they come back.

  6. beetleypete says:

    You are indeed a font of teaching wisdom, Jennie. They are lucky to have you. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  7. You have shared some wonderful ideas here, Jennie.

  8. What a WONDERFUL letter Jennie.. and I have said it before and I will say it again.. OH to have had you as my teacher when I was younger.. Such inspiration you bring.. I hope all teachers out there get to read it… And take ‘notes’…..
    Love and Blessings Jennie..

  9. Opher says:

    So great Jennie – it’s all about positivity.

  10. This is so, so true, Jennie! When I think of the teachers in my school who deeply love their subject, and share that love, those are the ones the children return to see. I’m going to share this with a few of those special teachers right now!

  11. Beautiful, Jennie, just beautiful! You have the heart of it right here. I wish we could share this with thousands of teachers everywhere.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marlene. I often feel like I need to shout this aloud to teachers, all teachers. I just wish they could all see that their joy will open the children’s joy.

  12. I love this! I hope every teacher carries Joy to their classroom. Great message Jennie!

  13. Dan Antion says:

    I only remember a few teachers that seemed to care about joy. You have some lucky students, Jennie.

  14. frenchc1955 says:

    Thank you, Jennie for an excellent post!

    • Jennie says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Charles. Teacher to teacher, I thought of you teaching Shakespeare to your students. Your joy is what makes it come alive. Aren’t we the lucky ones?!

  15. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is another wonderful post about teaching from Jennie!

  16. jjspina says:

    This is beautiful, Jennie, and pure joy. I can see how the children keep coming back. You have given them something precious – learning – and they can’t get enough. God bless you! I wish there were more teachers like you. I only had one teacher that made a different in my life – my first grade teacher, Mrs. Perry. She gave this shy, quiet and unassuming little girl the gift of reading. She encouraged me to read and I haven’t stopped since. Hugs xx Thanks you for sharing this lovely post. Will share.

  17. Thank you very much Jennie, for this wonderful posting. Hope many teachers will read it, and keep it in their thoughts too. Best wishes, Michael

  18. If you the teacher are not grounded in an emotional and social component of educating, then how in the world can you get your message across to children? You have to share your love and passions. That’s your joy.

    Excellent words of wisdom, Jennie!

  19. With few exceptions, the joy of school for me was because of the teachers…From them I learned how to teach myself, how to be independent and self-sufficient in an ever-changing world (lessons growing up in the military reinforced)…

    Now I teach myself instead waiting to be taught, remembering most the lesson a Math Logic professor taught me once: he had us work a problem over night. The next day he had each of us go to the blackboard, find a space, and write down our solution. Then he had us sit down, and told us to look around us…to see how many ways this same problem was worked — all of them correct. There is, he said, always more than one way to solve a problem. And if you find you ‘don’t get it’ there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you, you just need to find someone who can explain it the way you can see it…

  20. This is true, there’s just something about a teacher’s love that we cannot forget and as we grow up we always want to go back to them and show them how appreciative we are of all the love and care they have shown us.. This took me back

  21. A wonderful positive post, Jennie. Maya Angelou is right — I’ll never forget the way your posts make me feel. Hugs on the wing!

  22. ren says:

    You are very wise, Jennie!
    Do you know why Joy is so important?
    JOY is our birthright!!!!!

  23. well said Jennie-so much wisdom here-thank you!

  24. Inspirational, Jennie. And so true. Those unique touches are what makes many teachers special. Thanks for this reminder.

  25. dgkaye says:

    Beautiful words for all teachers to read Jennie 🙂 x

  26. Oh, I love this post! Wonderful tips for teachers heading back to the classroom, and for all of us really. There’s something about seeing someone truly loving their work and spreading joy at the same time. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  27. Pingback: The Miracle of Reading | Myths of the Mirror

    • Jennie says:

      Diana, I loved, LOVED this story. Hop on Pop, no less. It is a perfectly beautiful story, one that others need to hear, so teacher-Jennie-reader-aloud was thrilled to reblog it. Being included was quite an honor. Thank you, my friend.

  28. Pingback: The 120th Playful Math Carnival | Find the Factors

  29. Pingback: Interview with Teacher Jennie Fitzkee! | Jemsbooks

  30. christamhorn says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog because you seem like a very positive person! I definitely agree with that quote because I remember a lot of experiences in my life, but not necessarily what people said.

  31. spedadvisor says:

    great, inspirational post! I am glad I found your blog!

  32. disneyatemydaughter says:

    I lost my joy in teaching, because my subject (English) was so closely controlled that I could hardly share any great books with students – we were forever busy preparing for the next test. If teachers were more involved with the running of schools, perhaps there could be a better balance struck between assessment and freedom to explore the joy of knowledge.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes! YES!! I teach in a private school, so I do have some freedom. When English is so controlled that good literature can’t be shared, there’s a real problem. I am spontaneous, and often what I read is unplanned and based on the interest of the children, or something that happened. I would not have followed through with the Humphrey story had the book not been boring to children. Emergent curriculum. Many thanks for reading and commenting.

  33. A rather special post here Jennie!

  34. Reeno Mens says:

    This is such a lovely article. Inspired.

  35. Love this so much. There are so many ways to love what you do and reach kids. Thanks for this!

  36. timecrawlerblog says:

    Beautiful words from the Authors beautiful heart. So much love. Teacher’s profession is truly full of value.

  37. What a nice find…wise words here, and true.

  38. Pingback: An Open Letter To Teachers — A Teacher’s Reflections – SIOBHANNYHAN

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