'It's the small teaching wins that keep us going'

As the days get darker and the weather colder, Jo Brighouse finds celebration in the small teaching wins that keep her going in times like these

A Team Of Happy Teachers

One of my friends has discovered Marie Kondo. For the uninitiated, Marie Kondo is a tidying expert and “organising consultant” who shot to stardom through the unlikely medium of decluttering. According to Kondo, the secret of happiness is to throw out all objects that don’t “spark joy”. Having spent a week ferrying her joyless junk to the tip, my friend is now sending us photos of her newly organised shelves and cupboards complete with happy emojis indicative of her new-sparked joy. 

Sadly, I do not share her joy. For me, the sight of a well-ordered kitchen cupboard has never sparked more than mild transient pleasure but when it comes to the pursuit of happiness, I would agree that focusing on the little things isn’t a bad place to start. 


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As the poet Kahlil Gibran put it: “in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed”. Personally, I prefer Hallmark’s version: “Anyone who says their wedding was the best day of their life has never put money in a vending machine and had three Kit Kats fall out at once.” 

Since it’s November and the world around us is dark, uncertain and full of marking and tired, fractious children, it seems like a good time to zoom in on the little things that spark joy. The small teaching wins that keep us going. 

It’s not a complete list, but here are some teaching moments I’m going to hold onto:  

  1. Wet lunchtimes when you return to your classroom and find all children silently reading and zero evidence of wet play games littering the floor. It’s not a dream. It has happened. 
  2. Going to put new staples in your stapler and finding – and fitting – the correct size on your first attempt. 
  3. Spontaneously happy children. The ones who whisper “Yesssss!” when they learn something new and the ones who do a little happy dance when you announce which lesson is next. It’s a sight to gladden the most cynical of teacher hearts.
  4. Opening the stock cupboard and finding a new delivery of glue sticks and whiteboard pens. Can Earth have anything to show more fair? I very much doubt it.  
  5. Heading into the staffroom after a disastrous lesson that nobody understood and finding biscuits. Chocolate ones. 
  6. After four months of waiting, discovering that the technician has finally come and fixed your interactive whiteboard so that the screen no longer infuses everything with a strange yellow glow. What’s more, you can even write on it with the special pen and the letters don’t appear 5cm to the left. Happiness levels: delirious. 
  7. Teaching PE and discovering that not only are there enough tennis balls for one each but they all bounce
  8. The day you finally get 30 copies of the class novel. No one has to share. No one has to read from a badly formatted photocopy. All is well with the world. 
  9. Watching the Nativity performance. Suddenly, all the stress, tears and tea towels seem worth it. 
  10. A Snow Day text. Joy to your teaching world.

Jo Brighouse is a pseudonym for a primary teacher in the West Midlands. She tweets @jo_brighouse

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