“J” is for January and Joy, by Marilena Pevreall

January is all about Joy and teaching is all about Joy. I have been very fortunate to have enjoyed my teaching in schools from my very first lesson. I still remember this vividly. I have learned and continue to learn along the way, and here are a few things I wish to share.

When you are new to teaching you may have experienced anxiety and elation simultaneously – this constitutes the natural feelings of being human. Even after 22 years of teaching, I still get these feelings prior to teaching a new class. When we immerse ourselves in this space of enthusiasm and anxious anticipation, we have the opportunity not only to grow as individuals but also as teaching professionals.

Teaching is all about joy and sometimes that means that you may have to throw out your lesson plan. You need to meet your pupils where they are. Learning to teach and responding flexibly, to the classroom situation presented, is a skill. A skill that comes with experience and intuition.

Everyone in your class is going through their own unique experience during your lesson. We enter a class with different stresses, different professional scenarios, and mental as well as emotional baggage. Try and drop this baggage outside the classroom if you can. Not one day is the same. Remember, in teaching there is no place for ego. Nothing is about you, and it is all about your pupils. That degree of service should fill you with joy.

Your classroom is your workspace. Ensure it is a happy environment. Ensure that you are surrounded by things or animals (if your classroom is a lab) that bring you joy. You deserve to feel comfortable and safe in your teaching environment. That feeling is transferred to the classes you teach. In my class, I had a 35-year-old African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). He was the oldest-standing pupil. His name was Romeo, children and staff adored him and he was and still is the most popular member of the staff room. Romeo filled everyone’s life in the biology class with joy.

It is OK to say, ‘I don’t know’, as long as it is not too often. Your pupils will respect and appreciate authenticity to your own knowledge and understanding.

The main thing I have learned is that teaching is all about joy: the joy of every day spent with the most inquisitive minds, the joy of sharing your enthusiasm for your subject in the hope that you will inspire others to follow it, the joy of learning, the joy of sharing achievement, the joy of seeing your pupils years later and the knowledge that if you had to start all over again you would not a change a thing.

Romeo the frog

Romeo, the biology lab pet, who continues to bring a lot of joy in the classroom despite his 35 years of age!

By Marilena Pevreall

Head of Secondary School Teacher Training, University of Buckingham

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