Sounding joy: Perspective and clarity
In March of 2020, the pandemic shut down most of the country, including the school where I work. Instead of teaching in person, I was tasked with facilitating online learning to a group of first-graders – no easy task, I assure you. At the time, I also found out that I was pregnant with my first child so March brought tremendous change for my family.
I will admit, this time in my life felt scary, but it also came as a huge relief. In such an uncertain time, I found comfort in being home with my husband and dog. In addition to the stress of the pandemic, I struggled with my first trimester and was starting to doubt my career choice, which seems crazy now, because being a teacher is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I love working with children and, at the time, I was pursuing my master’s in early childhood education.
Still, doubt was creeping in and making me rethink that aspect of my life. Looking back, I feel thankful for the gift of time the pandemic gave me to slow down and reflect.
Fast forward through the spring and summer of 2020 and the uncertainty of a new school year arrived. I was seven months pregnant, the pandemic was raging on, and the idea of returning to school left me feeling anxious. All the relief I felt during the five months of quarantine dissipated and I turned into a nervous wreck. Teaching online during the spring hadn’t been my favorite, but I felt it safest to volunteer to be the online first-grade teacher for the year.
I had a wonderful group of students and supportive families but didn’t feel any joy teaching, which only increased the doubt I’d previously felt. I made it through that school year and then the 2021 school year began.
Online teaching wasn’t an option, so in-person it was. Immediately I felt a huge shift in my attitude. I was excited to go to work each day and the joy of working with children again in person renewed my love of teaching.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m thankful for this pandemic, which I know sounds ridiculous. It provided me the opportunity to slow down, spend quality time with my immediate family and newborn son, and it gave me perspective and clarity about my career. Through the experiences of the last year and a half, I’m realizing I’m especially grateful for the unbridled joy of children. I see it when I watch my son discover the world around him. The crunch of a leaf, the twinkle of Christmas lights, the sound of a running faucet.
I also see it in my students who returned to full in-person learning this year. Seeing them experience such joy reminds me to notice the small things and appreciate the things that I took for granted pre-pandemic. I’m going into this holiday season with an attitude of gratitude and hope to see the joy and magic of the holidays from the perspective of a child.
Jackie Josupait is a first-grade teacher. She lives in Davenport with her husband Eric, their one-year-old Miller, and their dog Nilly.