As the end of the school year approaches (more rapidly than I can keep track of), I usually start a process of wondering what my impact was this year. I teach about 32 students and coach 4 teachers, as well as working on other system-wide projects and programs. I teach religious education in a supplementary setting, which means students don’t often want to be there and attend on weeknights or weekends. So, what then is my impact on the lives of these people I interact with?
Susan Engel, in an article for The Atlantic, said “Human lives are governed by the desire to experience joy. Becoming educated should not require giving up joy but rather lead to finding joy in new kinds of things…” Joy is something I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on lately, because it’s come up in so many conversations. When our team discusses the progress and growth of our teachers, it’s rare to see joy come into the picture. When we discuss our students’ growth and experience in the classroom, joy is a word we don’t often use to describe it.
The type of joy that Engel describes, the ability to be deeply absorbed by something, seems hard to find as adults. We are so engrossed in work and bills and other responsibilities that taking time out for pure joy and pleasure seems almost impossible at times. Where children have an easy time of finding things to be awed by, we take much of our world for granted.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
What if we were all able to ensure that our students always left our classrooms “better and happier”?
What if all leaders could ensure that all teachers left them feeling “better and happier”?
As I continue to work with teachers and students during this academic year, this quote comes to mind over and over again. When my students enter my classroom, participate in activities, have discussions and then leave, what are they walking away with? Are they walking away happy and having enjoyed the time they’ve spent in class? Or are they walking away bored and dreading the next week’s class? Similar questions come to mind when I meet with teachers; I wonder whether they feel I am helping them when they leave or whether they feel our meetings aren’t giving them what they need.
There’s no answer, unless I ask directly; and it’s a question that teachers and students may not be comfortable answering. However, I wonder if keeping Mother Theresa’s words in mind can help me to keep kindness in the forefront of any conversation I am a part of, and help me to ensure that I do my best to help the other person/people leave feeling better than they did before.
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
I spent Memorial Day weekend in Western North Carolina. I felt my ears pop and large mounds of land sprout up from the Earth as we drove north. I spent 3 days surrounded by nature; a mile-high bridge across a mountaintop, a steep drive up a mountain to a secluded cabin, stargazing from a farm in the valley, and even ziplining through a forest. All of these experiences made me feel a sense of awe and wonder at the world I live in.