When I was asked to complete a PLC or professional learning community with my academic team, I decided that at this time of the year, encouragement was the item most needed. We all have tests, projects, and new technological tools to try. We have students who break our hearts and challenge us to be better teachers. We are here daily for many different reasons. What are those reasons? They vary as the educator varies. Some work out of necessity. Some teach because it is their passion. Working to bring new ideas and concepts to young people makes their feet hit the floor in a happy dance. Some hope to move on to other aspects of the educational umbrella. Their current assignment is one of the steps in their pathway of life. Some hope to survive until retirement comes. Some teach because it’s all they desire to do. They have joy.
Synonyms for joy include delight or exuberance. Joy comes from within the heart and is not fleeting like happiness. Joy radiates in the face despite a tired smile and body with achy feet. Joy is not a mood but a mindset. I want to focus on why we became teachers. I want us to remember our first love of teaching and reminisce enough to regain a bit of that joy.
I picked up a book from my personal library at school titled Apples & Chalkdust: Inspirational Stories and Encouragement for Teachers. It was published in 1998, the same year my son was born. I was nowhere near a classroom at that point in my life and was perfectly content to stay at home raising my son. When August 1998 rolled around, that internal timer screamed, “It’s time for back to school!” That must explain why I bought the book. Periodically, I’ve stumbled through the pages, but today I was struck by the hope offered. I wanted to share a meaningful vignette from Ms. Caruana’s timely inspirational book.
“Love Your Job”
Ellen knew she wanted to be a teacher since the first grade. She could remember setting her bedroom up like a classroom and making her four siblings be the students.
Her first grade teacher, Mrs. Robinson, loved her students. They in turn loved her and loved to learn. Ellen wanted to instill that same love in others, so she became a teacher.
All agree that teachers don’t get paid enough. You have to be in it for more than money. You have to love to teach.
Ellen always felt on fire when she was teaching. When a lesson clicked, it was an exhilarating feeling.
Once in a while she’d give students a chance to teach the class. They knew the material well enough to make a presentation. Those who volunteered did so out of desire, not out of outside pressure. She could see future teachers among her students. She could see their love for learning.
So when the union couldn’t negotiate a higher raise or the budget was cut again and her materials were meager, she was still happy.
Ellen was doing what she loved, and she did it well.
Remember to teach from your heart, not from duty.
Takeaway: When you do what you love, you do it well, no matter the circumstances.¹
¹Caruana, Vicki. Apples & Chalkdust.Tulsa: Honor Books, 1998. Print.
Discussion Questions to Ponder:
- Can you pinpoint what motivated you to be on the other side of the desk?
- Who inspired you to take that step into the classroom?
- What brings you joy in the classroom?
- What brings you joy as a teacher?
- What can you do to bring joy to yourself and others?
- Why are you here? (Personal reflection)