Originally, I had thought of using Journey to Joy as a title for this work. However, an actual trip changed my mind. On one leg of a recent summer vacation, I convinced my husband Hank to take a back road rather than the faster highway. I have always loved the back-road route. It’s more scenic, more calming, and usually much more interesting. Having talked my spouse into traveling this way, I was enjoying the scenery when I realized this was the way of joy—not to joy. So also is it in teaching. It is possible to experience joy along the way, not only as a final destination.
In May 2010, I was on my way to The Teaching Professor conference. At Chicago’s busy O’Hare Airport a businessman helped me out when we both missed our connecting flights. As we settled at the new gate to await departure, he asked the topic of my upcoming presentation. When I told him that it was about the joy of teaching, he remarked that I must certainly be talking about summer. Too many people have a similar view, and too many of them may even be teachers.
This collection is about pursuing a joyful journey in college teaching. It is meant to encourage other faculty who do the challenging work of teaching. Prompted to share these thoughts after hitting a slump in my own teaching a few years ago, this slim volume is part memoir and part advice for others.
When on a journey, you need several things. You need a map, or at least a general idea of where you are going—some kind of a plan. You need fuel or a ticket—some means to move you forward. And, it is often helpful to have a navigator either in the form of a device such as a global-positioning system (GPS) or a companion who will provide directions and assistance to guide you along the way. Most everything else (such as food, shelter, and more fuel) you can obtain along the way. This work is like the navigator that offers direction.
Being on a journey requires being open to the unexpected. So, too, is the journey of joy in teaching. My personal journey of joy has entailed acceptance and even anticipation of the surprises along the way. This outlook brings greater satisfaction and pleasure. As a student of teaching for 35 years, I offer my individual perspective as a way to help others find joy along the way.