It’s been a big week here at HPA – the start of our second year, and for many students, their very first week at Higher Path Academy. I am so excited about all the new students and families I have met, and I can’t wait for our second year to be so awesome that last year gets jealous!
As new families have come in, I have noticed one common theme – people often mention that they heard how energetic and fun the classes are. At one point, I overheard my mom speaking with a new family and told them, “A lot of people ask if Leah is always this full of joy, and (not because she’s my daughter) but yes she is!” While that is such a huge compliment, it really hit home with me since I’ve had the topic of joy on my heart for the last few weeks.
While I was in college working on my teacher certification, a huge focus was placed on our philosophies of education. We wrote multiple papers about it, presented and defended it in front of a panel of professors, and included it in our portfolios for future job interviews. I’ve thought a lot about how my philosophy of education has evolved, and if I were to rewrite it today, without a doubt, joy would be the major focus.
Students walk into my classroom with all kinds of worries and fears and doubts, but if for just a few hours, we can smile and laugh and learn together, maybe all those negative things can take a back seat for just a moment. I want my classroom to be that safe space that feels like you’re at home and at church and at school all at the same time. I think that is where learning truly occurs – in the context of God’s Word through the strength of relationships in an atmosphere of joy.
And I am passionate about sharing this joy with my students because as Christians, it is available to each of us. The problem is that many times we confuse happiness with joy, but happiness is a temporary emotion, circumstantial and fleeting. While our emotions are part of God’s design for us, we are not meant to operate at that level. Instead, God operates in the permanent – He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and that is His desire for us – not just moments of happiness but a lifetime of joy.
“But life is hard.”
I know. Our friends and family have not been untouched by some of the same tragedies facing my students and their families. I know the devastation cancer wreaks on a family. I’ve seen the affects of the pain of addiction and abuse. I’ve cried with people battling illnesses of all kinds and prayed with and for those who have faced unimaginable loss. But even in those darkest of nights, God’s promise rings true that JOY comes in the morning (Psalm 30)!
I love the description of joy in 1 Peter: “Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” It’s like God KNOWS we can’t wrap our brains around the lifetime of joy He has called us to. It’s “unspeakable;” other translations say “indescribable” or “inexpressible.” It’s just like the peace He promises us – “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). It’s peace in the face of turmoil and joy in the midst of despair – something the world can never replicate, because it is the divine work of the One and Only True God!
So, that is my philosophy of education – that woven into the fabric of every lesson plan and homework assignment and project, that my classroom would be overflowing with God’s unspeakable joy!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)