Joy, happiness, and contentment don't always come naturally during the hard work of teaching. Waiting for those positive feelings to come to us might result in a looong stretch of unhappiness in the meanwhile! Instead of sitting back passively and hoping our feelings will change, we can stir ourselves up and create habits that cultivate joy:
Habit 1: Write down the funny, cute, and sweet thing students say.
I did this my first year of teaching and can remember so many of the great moments I had simply because I took thirty seconds to write them down. It really entrenched some wonderful memories in my mind. How this cultivates joy: Recording the hilarious and adorable moments from your day will increase the likelihood that you'll remember the good stuff instead of the bad.
Habit 2: Keep students' cards, letters, and pictures and look through them when you're discouraged.
If you're having a conflict with a parent, re-read that thank-you note another parent once wrote. If your students are draining your patience, glance through the pictures they've drawn with the words "best techer evr" on them. How this cultivates joy: Keeping these tangible reminders of the times when your hard work paid off helps you remember that you'll reap a harvest in due season if your don't give up!
Habit 3: Tell someone about your students' breakthroughs.
Instead of listing everything that went wrong throughout the day and replaying all the annoying stuff that happened, zero in on one or more moments of success, and share it! Call a parent and announce that his/her child earned an A on a math test for the first time. Tell your coworkers in the teachers' lounge that your entire class turned in their homework. When your spouse asks about your day, say that you had a student finally master the six times tables or independently solve a social problem on the playground. How this cultivates joy: Sharing good news with others creates positive feelings in them, and feelings are contagious!
Habit 4: Pray for your students individually.
You can do this as you stack chairs and straighten up the classroom at the end of the day. Or, look over each name on your list while taking attendance and/or recording grades, and ask God to help you meet your kids' needs. I used to pray specifically for a few kids on my list each morning, rotating through their names alphabetically so I'd have prayed over each of them at some point during the week. How this cultivates joy: This habit can remind you that you're not trying to do everything on your own, and invites God to equip you and take over the parts that you're not able to handle.
Habit 5: Create personal ways to incorporate the sacred into the mundane.
Ask another Christian teacher to do devotions, a Bible study, or just pray with you quickly before everyone else arrives at school--get there early and have breakfast together on occasion to talk about the great things God is doing. Listen to uplifting worship music during your planning time. Write encouraging scriptures on index cards and post them inside your lesson planner so you see them when you look over the day's plans. Pray before your lessons that God would help you communicate and connect with your students, and thank Him afterward. How this cultivates joy: Scripture tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. We can keep ourselves from feeling week and discouraged by constantly connecting with God and drawing strength from the joy and contentment we have in Him. Let God be a part of everything you do!
How do YOU create habits that increase your joy as a teacher? Tell us in the comments or in The Cornerstone Devotions community on Facebook.