Spreading ‘The Infectious Joy of Learning’!

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April 19, 2022

This is the eighth in a series of guest blogs by the 2021-22 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year. Brian Paul is a third-grade teacher at Highview Elementary School in the Crestwood School District.

Ever since my youth, I have enjoyed the thrill of learning. I was motivated to become a teacher so that I could share what I call “The Infectious Joy of Learning” with the students I am honored to have in my care.

I can vividly recall teachers who instilled in me that joy of learning. In third grade, Mrs. Dolson made learning our multiplication facts exciting and competitive with the classic “around the world” game. In sixth grade, Mr. McMullen turned a writing assignment of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald into a sad but wonderful discovery of maritime adventure. Both of these teachers helped me achieve academic goals that I thought were beyond my grasp. Remembering those encouraging teachers and the achievements they brought out of me were strong motivating factors for me to become a teacher. I yearned to replicate similar achievements with my own students.

The most enjoyable part of teaching is getting a student to take a risk and achieve something they thought was impossible. I love demonstrating my belief in each student by the way I speak with them, look at them, talk about their accomplishments and laugh with them. With that blossoming relationship, a student feels safe to take risks.

I openly share with them when I am trying a new teaching strategy so they see me model risk-taking skills. With rigorous instruction and hard work, they set out to achieve an academic goal. That goal, which they help to determine, can range from reading in front of the class or writing a single sentence to moving up a reading level or scoring well on a test. When they achieve that goal, they swell with pride.

These successes breed “The Infectious Joy of Learning.” Once a student has felt it, they hunger for it again. Once classmates witness a student brimming with success, they yearn for it themselves.

The second most satisfying part of teaching is sharing that student success! We celebrate through whole class circle time where students give “shout outs” of praise for each other’s successes. I acknowledge the hard work of students as they pursue their learning goals. I concentrate on their effort.

I love those wonderful phone calls home to parents to share the exciting progress of their child. I share what is working with my students to my colleagues in the same building and across the district. Lastly, I also listen to my colleagues on successes they are having with their students so that I may incorporate some of their methods in my classroom.

Teaching and guiding students to accomplish more than they ever think is possible of themselves is the pursuit of joy. As often as possible, I seek to replicate the thrill of learning I experienced in my youth with my students. This is how I help to spread “The Infectious Joy of Learning”!