Find Your Joy
By: Erin Baker
Durham Middle School, Media Specialist
Read any education news lately? If your response is “Yes,” you are likely aware of the recently acknowledged surmounting pressure on educators. Edutopia’s “Defending a Teacher’s Right to Disconnect” declares teachers are presently “pushed to a breaking point.” Forbe’s January 4, 2022 article, “Why Education is About to Reach a Crisis of Epic Proportion” asserts 48% of America’s teachers are considering leaving their jobs, in part, because they are stressed and overworked. These claims are not news to educators. We have always been stressed; we have always been overworked. Add to that history the continuous pivots of teaching during a pandemic, and we are ever nearer the precipice. How do we stay motivated, passionate, balanced, and healthy with what feels like an insurmountable workload unlikely soon to lessen? One way I’m coping with #allthethings is by focusing on the joy in my job. I’m evaluating which programs, promotions, clubs, and committees bring me joy and which do not. I’m assessing where my contribution has the greatest impact. Through this sifting of my “to do” list, I have recognized a commitment continually inspiring me is Lunch Bunch Book Club. My dear friend and co-worker, ELA teacher Patti Slade, and I co-founded Lunch Bunch Book Club during the pre-pandemic 2019-20 school year with the mission of cultivating a love of reading within our school. We began Lunch Bunch face to face and shifted to virtual meetings during the months of online learning and then again when our school offered a blended model of virtual and face-to-face learning. We are currently back to face-to-face meetings as we originally were. Throughout the swings and roundabouts, we have made this club work—for the kids and the adults. The meaningful human connections we have with one another are important. The books we read and discuss are important. We are shaped by the conversations we have—ever evolving into more empathetic, understanding, and kind people. Lunch Bunch books are “windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors” (Rudine Sims Bishop). Conversation and text analysis lend themselves to obvious connections to personal experiences, relationships, goals, and human issues. Regardless of deterrents, distractions, and challenges, I plan to continue to hold up Lunch Bunch. I encourage you to find your joy, or add more joy, or create joy in your life as well. Do not let the obstacles, and what does not truly matter, keep you from the work that does.