I recently started watching the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Marie uses what she refers to as the KonMari method to help people declutter their lives. The goal is to cherish everything we have so we can achieve happiness and live comfortably. Believing that a reduced amount of physical clutter results in a happier state of mind, she teaches people to keep only those things that spark joy.
The KonMari method is spreading quickly and is even being transferred to other areas of people’s lives. I read that one person went through their list of Facebook friends and questioned, “Does this person bring me joy?” to determine whom to keep and whom to remove. Another person uses it when deciding how to fill her calendar. She asks, “Does this activity bring me joy?” If so, she puts it on her calendar; if not, she doesn’t.
The idea of focusing on joy can be used in many situations, but it also reminds me that not all things are joyful and we don’t always have a choice. Going to the doctor or dentist or going grocery shopping does not bring me joy, but they are “must-do’s” from time to time. And if I look past the event and focus on the outcome, I am able to find joy. For example, if I go to the doctor and dentist, I will keep my body and teeth healthy, which makes me happy. When I go to the grocery store, I have food in my cupboards when it is time to cook a meal and the process is much simpler, which in turn makes me happy. Sometimes the path to joy is not as direct as we might think.
This makes me think about our work in schools. Our outlook can positively or negatively affect our happiness. If we focus on the day-to-day challenges and struggles of teaching, asking if they “spark joy,” the answer might be no. However, if we focus on the overarching goal and outcome, asking if teaching and seeing students learn “sparks joy,” we will answer with a resounding yes. We are teachers because teaching and children bring us joy, plain and simple. This does not mean all aspects of teaching and all children bring us joy every moment of every day, but our overall work in this field does bring happiness.
Focusing on joy each day helps redirect our thoughts and change our attitude. Our workday is for students. Without them, we do not have a professional purpose. Looking for the good in each student, cherishing the big and little teaching moments of the day, and finding pleasure in the small things are all steps toward joyful teaching. Create a spark of joy in your teaching, and joyful learning will follow.