I was checking math problems and a child came up and put her arms around my shoulders. She fixed her sparkly eyes on mine and said, “Mrs. Campbell, I have a question for you. Were you as joyful at my age as you are now?”
I loved the question. I know that children wonder if they will still be joyful when they grow up, but I have never had a child work backwards and wonder if a joyful grown-up morphed from a once-upon-a-time joyful child.
This week we flip our calendars to December and enter a season marked by joy. But here is the weird thing… when you start paying attention to this season, you find the implication that joy is something you can buy or wrap or give. Count the times the word joy is used in a holiday commercial and pay attention to the context. You’ll be amazed at what you hear and see. Tonight I heard voiceover announcement: “Savings that give unstoppable joy…” Unstoppable joy? Really?
How does joy work? I know how it works in the classroom. It works through shared trust, shared traditions, shared jokes, shared music, shared expectations and shared experiences of singing, dancing, learning, literature, inquiry and discovery. Joy is lived together; everyone’s gift of self counts and is honored and respected. It works like that in families, too.
As a teacher I have become a student of joy. Don’t look for it in a store. It isn’t there. Where do YOU find it?
I am not ready to answer your question, so I will comment on something else. You are so right to foreground the classroom as a sharing. Most notions of education leave sharing altogether in the background. No wonder the very word “education” has the texture and flavor of unleavened bread.
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling. How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages boxes, or bags!
And he puzzled and puzzed, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”
Oh Annie! I love this small moment that you captured. I found joy just reading how your student approached you and asked you that incredible question.
As for me, I find joy in the small things. These days most of those things involve my husband since we’re preparing for our first child’s arrival. There are so many little things that need to be done. While it can seem overwhelming at first, I find that they’re more manageable to think about when I approach them with joy. (Yes, even the diaper buying has been joyful. Though I don’t know that the diaper changing will be as joyful!)
What a wonderful slice!!! It brought a smile to my evening!!!
I find joy right here with you, Annie. Thank you for the inspiration you deliver week after week for your little kids… and for us big kids, too!
The thought that caught my attention,Was you as joyful at my age as you are now? I am thinking wow. I can plainly see that the student think you are amzing? I do know the answer to your question, but I am more interested in your conversation about joy rather than answering it.
I think that you have the perfect definition of joy – “shared trust, shared traditions, shared jokes, shared music, shared expectations and shared experiences..”. All those words make me so happy, joyful! I am inspired by you and your writing and your teaching methods and classroom stories! I love the question the student asked and how you described her sparkly eyes fixing on yours! It’s wonderful, thank you!
I try to think of joy as an emotion or feeling I should have all year round. Christmas time is very special to me, but so are other times in my life, like my birthday (which is in May) and fall (when the leaves change color and the weather is perfect in Virginia).
When I read your story above, it made me think instantly of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Scrooge said he would live the rest of his life with Christmas in his heart. Ever since reading A Christmas Carol, I try to live by Scrooge’s words by having Christmas (or joy) in my heart at all times.