A Joyful Heart

Reluctant obedience or sheer willpower will never last the distance. Only a joyful heart can walk the long and difficult road.

  from Dare to Journey with Henri Nouwen by Charles Ringa

The above quotation is the last two sentences of a devotional I read this week. It pierced my heart, opening it up to receive the beautiful epiphany I needed for the journey, my journey. I must have a joyful heart to survive and thrive in my vocation.

I am on a journey, a long, difficult one. Are my adjectives correct? Is this journey both long and difficult? I could argue for the accuracy of both. The journey I speak of is my professional, vocational journey. I am an elementary school teacher. Though I’ve been in this profession since 2009 and officially since 2011, I am still a novice teacher.This is my first year beginning at the start of the year. The other years I began after the school year started, or I was in a different capacity other than a homeroom teacher. During this time, I have learned a great deal. Yet, I have a so much more to learn.

My journey is long. I work many physical hours and a triple amount of mental hours thinking about my teaching practice, my students, or my perceived shortcomings. It seems as if the work of teaching is never complete. My hours put the “lifelong” into the “lifelong learning.” I’ve cut back some out of self-preservation, but each week brings new challenges. The requirements continue to mount without the proper assistance.

My journey is difficult. Each student has his or her own unique behavioral and academic strengths and weaknesses. In my case, students require additional services they are not getting for various reasons. As a result, it is my responsibility to meet those needs. In the process, I feel scattered. I want to go deep in my teaching, but often I have to sacrifice depth for breadth. In the face of these challenges, I walk away feeling ineffective and defeated. Often, I’ve felt like a silo.

What I describe seems negative and dreary. It is, but it is because I am making it that way. For success, attitude is as important as ability. This has been my mantra. However, I still walk away with a negative attitude. What I need is a joyful heart to last the distance. I like to feel successful. I get joy from helping others, being a leader. I’ve often felt too tired and overwhelmed to really help anyone or feel like a viable part of my grade level. When you are drowning, you have to save yourself first, right?

After meditating on the devotional, I realized the joyful heart providing the sustenance for my journey has to come out of a daily intention of joy. I can create my own mental reality, thereby affecting all around me. There is much to be joyful about each day. My students are lights along my path.

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