This is a re-post of a letter I wrote to teachers on Joy.
Joy is the magic word!
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 the 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.