On December 19, 2017 we lost a lovely colleague, Joyce Snoek-Hoekstra, in a car accident. There were poor road conditions that night and she was almost home when it happened. Joyce was a kindergarten teacher who had embraced the job with her whole heart. She could see the good in absolutely every one of those children and she believed in them. I covered her class for her prep time so I saw how dearly she loved her work. I mourn her loss but I also celebrate the gifts she brought into so many lives.
The last time I heard Joyce’s voice she was on the public address system during the lunch break. I had never heard her on the PA system before. There was a book she was determined to read to her class during her gingerbread theme and she couldn’t find her copy, It was The Gingerbread Pirates. As she finished her announcement she giggled a bit and said, “Bye!”, as she hung up. I saw her in the hall shortly after and she was still giggling about the whole thing. Stepping out of the comfort zone, laughing at her mistakes, going easy on herself for being human, these were qualities that I saw in Joyce. She was so positive and encouraging with her students, always cheering them on to reach their individual goals.
December’s long dark nights give me a chance to reflect with gratitude on the joys of teaching. That can be difficult to do with the stress of the teaching job. It’s a great month to pick up my gratitude journal and double my efforts. It’s a time to pull back from the noise of the day and appreciate the people who have helped me along the way and remind myself why I’m in this profession. Our students may need that time as well. Classroom activities that focus on kindness and gratitude are a wonderful way to show students these skills of reflection and appreciation. I’m going to do a kindness countdown with my early intervention groups. They will be practicing some literacy skills and building a stronger class community at the same time.