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Grineski: Moments of joy

Columnist Steve Grineski shares “moments of joy” from five metro teachers.

Steve Grineski.jpg
Steve Grineski
Contributed / Steve Grineski
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I volunteer in a classroom and recently observed the teacher interacting with a student. The teacher was so excited about this student’s progress, she beamed from head to toe, while sharing positive feedback about his learning. She wanted the student to know, through his hard work, that he accomplished something great and should be proud of himself—and he certainly was.

The rewards of teaching are often found in the joy teachers experience with students, like the above teacher. Here are edited “moments of joy” from five metro teachers.

My biggest moment of joy happens when a student realizes they learned something. I teach language arts to sixth graders. The “aha” moments make my heart swell three sizes. I can say, “See? You are so smart and capable!” Most kids don’t see the amazing potential that lives inside their minds, but I do, and it’s why I teach.

I have several moments of joy but when my AP human geography students find success in their writing, those really stand out. The learning curve is hard, but when students finally click on what they are supposed to do and the level of rigor they have to do it, it is beyond rewarding. I will always be their biggest champion and will always push them to be their best selves. Those will be my moments of joy.

One of the most joyful moments I have had is reaching a student that struggles with emotions and shuts down when something seems hard. I worked hard with this student to make a relationship as I do with all my students. Each day I have the students in my class say daily affirmations. One of these affirmations is that they can do hard things. This student started the year refusing to come to reading small group with me and would not read or write. Now this student not only comes to small group with me but starts each day telling me they can do hard things. To see this student, go from the "I cannot do it mentality" to "I can do anything I put my mind to" is one of the many reasons being a teacher is the best profession.

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The enthusiasm our schools' youngest learners bring to the classroom everyday is my daily dose of joy. Kindergarten is its own learning environment, full of eager readers and writers—from learning letter names, and understanding that letters make sounds, to segmenting and blending those sounds together to read and write words. Unlocking a student's ability to decode words so they can read books independently is THE BEST kind of joy in kindergarten.

School does not come easily to all students. Joy happens when a student that you spend time with working on skills, believes what they do with their education matters to their future; it is a moment that radiates such a feeling of joy that leaves me smiling through the hard days.

More remarkable stories of “moments of joy” next time.

Steve Grineski taught in the Apple Valley and Maple Grove school districts for 10 years, before joining the teacher education faculty at Minnesota State University for 31 years. He retired in 2015. For the past five years he worked with families at Churches United for the Homeless.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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