pleasureteam note: We are pleased to welcome a new writer today. Derek Sims is Assistant Professor of Biology at our college. He’s known for being a thoughtful, honest, and realistic colleague. We enjoyed reading his perspective, and we think you will, too.
Recently I was teaching cellular respiration in my Biology I classes. I have two sections of this course this semester. After completing the topic with the first section, I felt that it really did not go well. It seemed that there was little student focus and that they did not understand the topic. After some reflection, I realized that it was my fault. I was not focused and my JOY was missing.
The last few years have had some good experiences and some not so enjoyable. Those which are not the most enjoyable sometimes start to take away our JOY. What is JOY? It is the love of teaching and the enthusiasm and focus required to do the job well. Life seems to take away JOY. Workplace turmoil and low job satisfaction are also JOY suckers. Unpleasant co-workers or bosses, as well as students who do not seem to care about their education are also JOY suckers. The only thing which seems to feed the JOY is the occasional student who really gets it and makes something out of themselves using what the instructor has brought to the table.
Many of us struggle with the disappearance of JOY from time to time. I have had my struggles as well and have started asking myself what it is that helps keep the JOY, and what I can do to encourage that in my personal teaching experience. When the JOY is there, the students’ educational experience is maximized and the instructor is much happier and more engaged and focused as well.
Engaged, dedicated students are the first source of JOY. It seems that the average student quality has dipped in recent years, reducing the automatic JOY. If the instructor maintains JOY, student engagement will increase, converting some students into sources of JOY. It will also encourage the students who were already going to be inspiring to shine even more. I have discovered that when I am enthusiastic and focused on the topic the students become more engaged and understand the material more completely. We all leave the classroom feeling better and more satisfied.
A second source of JOY can be workplace/job satisfaction. Some days are better than others when considering this category of JOY. Workplace policies, events, and other background issues in the workplace can either be a significant contributor to or detraction from our JOY. It seems like the old adage “When it rains, it pours” is appropriate when considering this area. It is helpful to remember that these types of things will come and go, but the mission remains the same, help students learn and better themselves. I have made a real effort to institute this thought into my every day existence. My personality is not one to ignore these sorts of things, so I often struggle in this area.
Home life detracts from JOY because it takes time and energy away from teaching. There is a strong pull exerted on each of us to be at home with family and friends, especially on days when JOY is missing at work. I do not have any pearls of wisdom or suggestions to add in this category, so any ideas are welcomed.
After the experience mentioned at the beginning of this post, I realized that I needed to bring more focus and enthusiasm to the topic. I did not really change the information that I presented, but rather presented it with more enthusiasm and energy. The students in the next section of the course, which met the next day, responded much more favorably to the lecture and we all left that day with a greater sense of accomplishment and purpose, with significantly fewer blank stares and expressions of confusion. I am sure there will be many more days in the future which will be lacking in JOY, but simply thinking about the causes of JOY and the real purpose of teachers and teaching, can help bring the JOY back and help in achieving inspiring and useful teaching and learning.
There are other factors which influence JOY that I have not covered here. Feel free to send me your thoughts on JOY and additional posts may spring forth with your input.
- Seeking the Heart of Teaching (cea-ace.ca)