The Joy of Teaching
By Renee Rademaker
JOY (noun-joi) choosing happiness even in darkness, gladness not based on circumstance, the simple essence of life.
We are roughly halfway through the school year. Are you remembering to find JOY every day? Teaching, learning and connecting with students are most likely three of the major reasons you are in the classroom. Before many of us were even born, Leonard Bernstein opened the 1963 season of CBS’s televised and very popular Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic by highlighting his appreciation for teachers. Bernstein stated: “Teaching is probably the noblest profession in the world – the most unselfish, difficult and honorable profession, but it also is the most unappreciated, underrated, underpaid and under-praised profession in the world.” So nearly 60 years ago, one of the greatest American composers, conductors and educators of all time recognized what we may often feel. Ironically, we may think that only recently our profession has become underappreciated, but Bernstein acknowledged it years and years ago. However, that shouldn’t change our desire to make a difference – every single day.
That being said, how do we keep finding JOY? I have three points to offer:
- Find AWE in learning
- INSPIRE those around you
- COLLABORATE with others.
How do we keep finding JOY? Find AWE in learning – this is something bigger than yourself… a picture-perfect sunrise, a piece of music that truly moves you, a silly connection between you and a student or colleague. Maya Angelou (American poet) is quoted as saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” For me, this is a daily goal – ensuring that my words and actions make people feel good.
Our students now more than ever need us to have a connection with them, and what better means than through MUSIC. The Arts just may be the “original” SEL avenue.
How do we keep finding JOY? By INSPIRING those around us. William Arthur Ward (American author) says, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Sometimes one simple word or act may inspire an entire classroom to raise their bar. It isn’t all about the performances – the day-to-day rituals we follow in our rooms may be the only structure our students experience.
Eight ways to inspire others:
- Build up those around you.
- Be enthusiastic.
- Have integrity.
- Be empathetic.
- Maintain a positive outlook.
- Practice gratitude.
- Stand your ground.
- Set clear goals and strive to achieve them.
How do we keep finding JOY? COLLABORATION with others. Robert John Meehan (American education ally) tells us that “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” We can’t expect ourselves to come up with fabulous ideas and methods every day. However, we can have a conversation with another educator and share ideas; we can have coffee with a new teacher in the area and offer some of our proven practices to them; we may have to step out of our comfort zone and communicate with local music educators regularly to share ideas. No use “reinventing the wheel” so to speak. If you currently don’t have someone or a group of music educators to collaborate with, take the lead in your area and form one. It can be as simple as a monthly zoom session, or as elaborate as a dinner party.
The important thing is to keep JOY in your teaching, and collaboration may be the perfect answer.
Note: WMEA District Vice Presidents are hosting two more Networking Evenings: Monday, February 27 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and Monday, May 1 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Watch for communication regarding these online events. Then, consider joining the zoom for an opportunity to connect with other members in your own district, AND potentially find new people to add to your group of contacts for COLLABORATION.
Friends, as you continue your extremely important work this school year, remember to find JOY in the little things, and in the big things. May I also remind you that your class and your example may be the best part of your students’ day. Thank you for guiding them and assisting their love of music and learning!