A Moment with Dr. Moore

October 27, 2021

Finding Your Happy and Your Joy

A teacher’s greatest joy is to watch a child succeed. And that’s kept our early childhood teachers going during COVID. In New York, Tara Entrieri put her students first when her preschool, Stepping Stones, went remote. “I turned my one-bedroom apartment into a classroom,” she said, “invited my husband and pets to join our class as we played games, read stories, baked, had dance parties and continued our learning throughout the year.” In Ohio, teachers at CTK Kids Learning put in 12- to 16-hour days. “We didn’t close one single day,” said director Mandy Young. “My teachers didn’t get time off. You had to keep going with a smile on your face behind the mask.” And Krista Campbell, owner of Madrone Montessori in California, committed to staying open so “children could be productive and purposeful each day,” she said. “We have happy children and happy teachers, and that makes me happy, too.”

Happiness is not the same as joy, as I pointed out at the Council’s annual conference this month. Happiness is fleeting while joy is in your gut and soul, so it transcends the moment. Still, you can’t end up with a joyful life without pursuing what makes you happy. And that’s more difficult now as the early childhood field faces the roadblocks brought on by the pandemic: new regulations, staffing challenges, declining enrollments and rising costs.

So, it’s especially important now that we, as early childhood teachers, know and grasp the seven steps that let you find your happy: knowing who you are, forgiveness, letting go of the past, shedding past hurts and disappointments, eliminating toxic relationships, loving yourself, and loving God or having some sort of deep spiritual belief. Following these simple steps will put you on the path toward happiness—and ultimately a more joyful life.

When you have joy, you can get through anything: a bad marriage, a bad relationship—and even the problems posed by the pandemic. If you have joy, you have the answer to all the challenges you face and can get your life back on track. Joy lifts you up, as some members of our field have already understood. They’ve been lifting themselves up for years, despite few resources, slim support and meager pay. The creativity they’ve shown has allowed them to also lift up the children and families they serve.

Early childhood teachers like these play a vital role in our nation, and COVID has finally helped them get some of the kudos they deserve. There’s now broad public agreement that our profession is essential, leading to more government funding for providers. This is our moment. So, we must emerge from the pandemic ready to renew and reimagine what we do. Pause to reflect on where you are so you don’t stumble blindly ahead. Let go of the hurts of the past to surmount the hurdles of the future.

Our field has the commitment, as well as the courage, to get things done and lead the way to new chances for learning. We also have each other. While the pandemic has torn apart relationships in other sectors, we have seen the members of our community forge bonds that are stronger than ever. “You’ve got me, and I’ve got you,” as indie musician Josh Lovelace once sang. And that makes our profession strong.

What brings us together is a common sense of purpose: to serve young children and their families. We also share the conviction that quality education is what makes learning a pleasure. And as we start to renew our field, we should keep these core beliefs at the front of our minds. They define who you are as both a person and a teacher.

So does the tremendous sense of fulfillment we get from our work and the impact it makes on young learners. “It is the supreme art of the teacher,” Albert Einstein once said, “to awaken creative expression and knowledge”—two key things young children need to find happiness, meaning, passion and purpose in life.

We need to make knowledge and creative expression priorities in our own lives, too, if we are to make an impact on children. We must practice what we preach—especially when it comes to joy. “When someone is taught the joy of learning, it becomes a lifelong process,” explained author and educator Marva Collins. “That is the challenge and joy of teaching.” Let’s find our happy and our joy for the sake of the children we serve.

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