I believe that joy comes in the morning.
It better, I often think, because if it comes at 5:00 pm, I might as well stay in bed. I teach fifth-grade English Language Arts at a charter school for students who have been underserved by our public schools. Our day begins at 7:00 and ends at 5:00. It’s not often that our mornings are easy. We are evicted from sleep and pushed into our daily routine before sunrise. But joy comes anyway not because it’s easy but because it must.
I often wonder what the morning is like for our kids. Our kids and their families sacrifice more than just sleep to be with us at 7:00. Do they spend our long days together in perpetual countdown? It’s okay with me if mornings are tough for our kids. It’s okay with me if school is tough for our kids, but if that’s all it is—a slog from early in the morning until late at night—then we really should stay in bed.
For our kids, a joy deeper and richer than their 5:00 pm glee must come in the morning. When our kids wake up, they must know they’re going to be someone a little better than who they were yesterday. I think of our kids who so badly need our love. What are their mornings like? Does Natajah* wake up wanting to talk to herself all day? Does Deonte wake up expecting to struggle with every word he reads? Some kids wear the difficulties of their days on their faces, and I must urge them each morning to see themselves anew.
I don’t know what Felton’s mornings are like. Early last fall, I learned that he is a special kid. Felton battled his way through two years of fifth grade. He exhausted me. One morning, he charged into homeroom furious about something that had happened on the bus. Worried that for him the day was over before it began, I called Felton over to my desk. Exasperated, I told him that I would love for him to come into the room each morning and say, “Good morning, Ms. Hood.” I asked him to leave the room and try it. He left without a word and reemerged moments later. He said, “Good morning, Ms. Hood” as he did each and every morning for the rest of the year.
Maybe his easy grin and raspy “good morning” deceived me, but I was convinced that each day—unburdening himself of the previous day’s difficulties—Felton walked in intending to be someone new. Joy comes in the morning.
Each morning, we awaken with the difficult wisdom of yesterday. The realities of our kids’ lives are often overwhelming, but we don’t have time to be overwhelmed. Joyful doesn’t mean chipper, and it doesn’t mean naïve. Instead, it means the intent to move forward purposefully, knowing that every action taken, every word spoken will emanate from the hope of what can and will be.
*Names have been changed.
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