Finding Joy in the Work

Syd Sexton, School Improvement Specialist

New Year Image

My husband and I took the kids to our community’s First Friday Arts Trail recently, a fun event held at multiple venues around Lubbock to see the work of local artists, take in live performances, and eat from food trucks. Ah, food trucks. But I digest.

Arriving at the last venue somewhat against my wishes as I had chosen poorly in the shoe department for all this trekking, I see that one of my students from my first year in the classroom is the performer, and my energy is restored. Instant joy. And instant Joy. That’s her name. Joy. I found a seat, and I couldn’t take my eyes off this now thirty-something woman.

You see, she wasn’t always a joy. (I’m not being a jerk; the first words out of her mouth after her set were, “I teach now. Those kids drive me crazy just like I drove you crazy.”) She worked me over for the entire first semester until I finally unlocked what it took to teach her.

As I sat there watching her play and sing and work all her own sound equipment, I remembered each tense conversation, each failure to connect, each and every disciplinary documentation. Teacher: a title I earned and learned on that kiddo.

Now, with twenty years under my belt, I think back on that first-year experience, and I never want to forget what it feels like, the exhausting nature of people unlocking.

It is important for school leaders to support teachers in the throes of learning to teach.

Ask the right questions.

Spur on the right problem-solving.

Encourage the perseverance it takes for your teachers to connect to students.

Don't let the budget meetings, policy reviews, or campus management cause you to forget the pleasure of figuring out and finessing a classroom.

Reflection is important for school leaders if they are to stay grounded in the teaching work. For a start, ask yourself these questions: 

When were you pressed and stressed in your teaching role?

What did it take to “win” in a tough situation?

What is a creative solution you discovered along the way, and what was your path to finding the solution?

Who in your building might be going through a tough problem-solving time? New teacher? Seasoned teacher shifting to a new demographic? Teacher struggling with a new content area?

Go back and recall your joys from your classroom days. Use those memories to make you better at building teachers. I know I’m renewed from finding my Joy.


About the author:  Syd serves school leaders at Region 17 Education Service Center in Lubbock, Texas. Her current big project is training educators in the new Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) and Advancing Educational Leadership (AEL). Check out some of Region 17's resources for T-TESS here.

About Joy: Joy is a talented percussion teacher and musical performer in the Lubbock area. She was elated to know that she's a part of wisdom sharing with school leaders through this blog post.  .  

Saturday, May 28, 2016