The Start of a New Year at School – Part 2

In Part 1, I talked about welcoming children to a new year at school.

Part 2
This is the really important piece – The Teacher.  What a teacher brings to children and the classroom makes all the difference in the world.  I have written this to teachers before, yet today children need teachers more than ever.  Here is my letter to teachers:

Finding Joy – It’s the Magic Word!

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 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.

This does not mean to ignore the curriculum.  On the contrary, it means finding ways to insert your passions into the curriculum objectives.

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.

This is a Wish Tree on the playground at school.  Children and teachers wrote their heartfelt wishes and hung them onto the tree.  My wish?  Joy, of course.


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, Imagination, Inspiration, joy, School, teaching, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

85 Responses to The Start of a New Year at School – Part 2

  1. beth says:

    i love, love the wish tree – have a great year!

  2. This is so important and so apropos of my conversation with my son last night. As a highly sensitive person he is in a constant struggle with life. Although he is smart and gets excellent grades, he doesn’t find a whole lot of joy in his classes. Teachers make a huge difference in children’s lives and the way we teach our youth. I wish he had a few teachers like you.

  3. I truly agree that what you love shows in your teaching. The children will suck up your energy and feel your passion. As educators we facilitate the process of learning to learn. Engage children in the process and demonstrate a love of learning!

  4. I love this! “Joy” is absolutely the best word to use about education. Learning should be joyful.

  5. Ritu says:

    Beautiful, Jennie! 💜

  6. Mireya says:

    What a tree, A floral wish tree? Maybe I’ll paint that today. My joy comes when I know that they are the true teachers. I sub by the way so they inspire me to be an artist.

  7. Have a great new teaching year Jennie! It will be fab!

  8. Great advice for teachers, Jennie. My two cents. Don’t let anyone kill your joy.

  9. Wonderfully written. May your cup of joy teaching overflow.🙂

  10. quiall says:

    That was brilliant Jennie!

  11. Don Ostertag says:

    Wonderful advice, Jennie.

  12. You are very wise! I love your wish tree!! 🥰

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you! It all started with the wonderful children’s book by Katherine Applegate, “Wishtree.” I had to take it to the next level. This project at school was fabulous! The book is a perfect read aloud for 2nd to 5th graders.

  13. willedare says:

    What an emotionally moving blog post to read as I prepare my first lesson plan for our fall term of Music Together classes. I especially love these sentences: “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.” Deep breath in. Deep breath out. THANK YOU, Jennie. I will share a link for this blog post with one of my teacher friends, too.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, Will!! What a beautiful comment. As I type this I am waiting in the wings to go onto the Kelly Clarkson Show and talk about much of this and reading aloud. Stay tuned!

  14. WIshing teachers and students everywhere a JOY FILLED YEAR! Great tips, Jennie… Must share! ❤ xoxoxo

  15. I wish you a great start to the new school year. Lucky kids who have you for their teacher!

  16. Dan Antion says:

    These are such great ideas, Jennie. You’re a gem to share them.

  17. Carla says:

    This is exactly what teachers need to hear. Joy is so important. Children can sense how their teacher feels and if you are just going through the motions, they will as well.

  18. petespringerauthor says:

    When we bring our genuine passions to the classroom, it is guaranteed that positive energy will be transferred to some students, especially if they can relate it to prior knowledge. I miss those electric mesmerized eyes absorbing everything. Great lesson for all teachers—young and old.

  19. bosssybabe says:

    I love the wish tree, the word joy (and all its meanings) and I love that Maya Angelou quote. I love the quote because it’s so true- you only ever remember how someone’s kindness or caring thought made you feel.

    I love that you remind teachers that children are there to be guided and not only learn but to be inspired to learn.. That’s important to note as an educator and as a parent of a young toddler just starting out school in a year, it makes me feel much better about sending her to school in the hopes that she’ll have a wonderful teacher much like you. ❤️

  20. Norah says:

    Perfectly said, Jennie. Have a joy-filled year.

  21. Jim Borden says:

    wonderful post, Jennie. and what a gift it would be if teachers were able to share their passions with their students, and get the children excited about learning. you can’t aks for more than that! best of luck this school year – I hope your wish comes true 🙂

  22. You have to know how much I like this post. Joy is the most important element for all our lives on this earth. It’s how we should be measuring our success. You have it exactly right which is why your students end up so successful. I pray more teachers read this. I’m going to copy this in case I get brave enough to forward it to the DIL.

    • Jennie says:

      I do know how much this means to you, Marlene, as you always embrace joy. You understand it makes all the difference in the world. How we see things and feel about them shapes our lives. It’s really ‘everything’. I hope you become brave and send this to your DIL. 🙂
      Marlene, on a side note I just returned from LA as I was a guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. Really!! I talked about reading aloud and of course joy. I’m not allowed to talk about the show yet, but it airs on October 5th. I hope you can watch it. 💕

  23. Mya says:

    wow. that was a great post and I would like to share it with my son who is a 5th grade teacher and his girlfriend who is a 1st grade teacher. They love teaching and both won the teacher of the year in there town last year! Proud Mom here :). I love the wishing tree! My son says there are no bad kids 🙂They both truly care for each child in there classes. Thank you for this post!!

    • Jennie says:

      That is so wonderful!! You definitely should be a proud mom! Tell your son that the wish tree at school (not wishing tree) started with the book “Wishtree” by Katherine Applegate. I hope he reads aloud to his students, and I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book. It is a perfect read for 5th graders. I hope his girlfriend reads aloud, too. “Charlotte’s Web” would be perfect. Can you tell I’m passionate about reading aloud? 🙂

  24. Annika Perry says:

    Jennie, wow! What a terrific letter and this should be mandatory reading for all new teachers! Your sentence ‘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.’ encompasses it all! Also, this is the second time this week I’ve come across the Maya Angelou quote – beautiful and wise!

  25. Passion for something is more infectious than covid. Well written . Thank you. May this be a good term for all teachers.

  26. CarolCooks2 says:

    Your passion and joy shine through in every word of that letter, Jennie and that tree is a wonderful example of joy..Have a lovely weekend 🙂 x

  27. lebaneselily says:

    My school’s philosophy is “Nothing without Joy” and I totally agree. There is no way I could teach anything to my kindergarteners if they aren’t enjoying their time in the classroom.

  28. You have a wonderful attitude to teaching, Jennie, and it shines through continuously.

  29. Wow! Looks so beautiful. I love your blog so much. ❤️😃

  30. frenchc1955 says:

    Hi Jennie, thank you for being a wonderful teacher!

  31. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Please enjoy part II of the extraordinary teacher, Jennie’s, series on the beginning of the school year.

  32. dgkaye says:

    Loved this. Love the Wish tree. And can’t wait to see you on TV! ❤

  33. Bdoel says:

    Best word to use about education.joyful

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