Do you find joy in your job? Do you go home eager to share stories about your day? Can you identify others on staff who enjoy their jobs?

We spend most of our waking hours at work. Studies have shown that those people deemed happiest in our society are those who find purpose in their work.

I would expect that most of our students could identify the staff members who enjoy their jobs. They know whether or not we want to be at work each day. They know whether or not we find happiness in what we do. They know too, if we are stressed or frustrated.

No matter where we work, we will face difficult situations. That we cannot avoid. Sometimes we deal with difficult individuals. Sometimes we do not agree with the decisions that are made. Sometimes we feel like we are spinning our wheels.

Yet what we do each day within a school, whatever our job, is important. We are all pieces to a puzzle, not complete without each other. As we come together each day, why not make the overall picture a joyful one?

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Henri Nouwen

Arts or crafts?

Rewind to my first year of teaching. Grade one. I’m hanging my students’ artwork. As a newbie teacher I’d happily ‘borrowed’ the idea from my colleagues. Happily that is, until I am stapling the so-called artwork to the bulletin board. “This isn’t art,” I hear myself saying. All 24 are precisely the same. Okay, perhaps there is some variation distinguishable at close inspection. Virtually though, 24 carbon copies.

From that moment on, I vow not to lead my students through crafts: the copying of steps, ultimately creating the same product. I vow to teach my students art: to draw out their creativity and individuality, to introduce skills and techniques, to teach them to reflect, create, appreciate and interpret visual symbols.

Over the years, art became one of my favourite subjects to teach. I challenged myself to find ways to teach colour, line, texture, shape, design, proportion – still allowing my students to express themselves, valuing their inventiveness to create a product all their own.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Let’s not squelch the artist within our students sooner than seems to happen naturally with age! Ensure that your students can identify their own work from the bulletin board because their choices within their composition are deliberate and purposeful. Capitalize on a child’s fearlessness, ingenuity and self-confidence while it still exists. Allow the instinct of a child to create, discover and explore to infiltrate your art lessons.

If you want 24 carbon copies, use the photocopier.

An unexpected gift

I was lucky enough to receive some gifts this Christmas. Some very thoughtful gifts, in fact. My favourite though was from one of my brothers. He donated, on behalf of our family, to a unicef project entitled K.I.N.D (Kids In Need of Desks).

I don’t know about you but I take our desks for granted each day. I’m sure most of our students do as well. Our desks have never been a cause for celebration or driven our students to burst into song. Besides the odd time I’ve ordered them, I have never really given them much thought. Never considered not being able to afford desks for our school. Never really thought about the alternative: sitting on a cement floor all day, every day. And then I watched the video and read the article at the following link:

Brother, thank you for reminding me how fortunate we are to live in Canada… how fortunate we are to have the resources we need in school each day… how fortunate we are to be able to meet not only our spiritual and academic needs but our basic physical needs as well.

According to the article, “four out of five students in Malawi are still without desks, and in all of sub-Saharan Africa there are 45 million children who are unable to go to school.”

Ultimately, my brother’s gift was a reminder: yes, I’d say we have it pretty good here.

89 year old spunk

I marvel at the spunk and energy of my 89 year old grandmother. She doesn’t look 89 years old. She doesn’t act 89 years old. Her positive attitude and life of hard work are certainly cause for pause. I wonder… What keeps her so young? What keeps her from complaining about her aches and pains?

She leads by example and lives in the moment. She is a well-read woman. She is quietly annoyed by others who complain about their lives. She has sympathy and empathy for those in need. She gives freely. She loves generously. She is the matriarch of our family. She has great wealth of spirit.

Whether she is watching the Oilers, listening to her beloved Daniel O’Donnell or retelling her favourite stories, she certainly has spunk.

Teachers come in many forms: mine takes the form of my 89 year old grandmother. I am one lucky student.