John Kennedy said, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.”
At times, when we read and listen to the news, we can become saddened and even have a cynical outlook on the future. News reports often cast a negative pall on life that affects us all. However, this dark cloud is not seen in our schools. Each day children are thrilled to be in school with classmates and show a genuine enthusiasm for learning on a daily basis. They exhibit a joyful outlook on life and the future…their future.
I recently visited a “swearing-in ceremony” of the Woodmont Elementary School 5th grade student safety patrol volunteers by the Morris County Sheriff. Prior to the ceremony, I asked the students what they wanted to be when they grow up. Four young women said they wanted to be scientists, several students expressed interest in working with animals, some of the children told me they would become a doctor, and one young man, with full conviction, shared his desire to interpret satellite images.
In this brief moment of interacting with these students, they enthusiastically shot their hands in the air to be picked to share their future endeavors. When called upon, they smiled brightly and proudly shared their dreams. They spoke to me with confidence and joy.
Each student, in their own way, shared with me their solution on how they were going to improve this world. The ideas were their way of helping others and making earth a better place to live.
These dreams did not just come to these students in the middle of the night without some outside influence. These impressionable students saw something on TV or social media that piqued their interest. They spoke to an adult about their career path that sounded appealing. They heard something at their house of worship that intrigued them to want to help others. They read a great story that demonstrated that there are no barriers to what they want to accomplish. They learned a lesson in class that left a lasting impression.
There is no telling what one thing or all the above influenced these students’ dreams, but their commitment to the future was resolute and enthusiastic. Enthusiasm, laughter and joy are daily traits that students share with educators. The unbridled enthusiasm of students comes with an ability to quickly shake off mistakes, learn from difficult problems, and grow after being challenged. When students figure things out, conquer fears, and become comfortable with the uncomfortable, they mature and expand in their confidence, knowledge, and joy.
The laughter of children usually occurs after an accomplishment. Typically, a child does not express joy in the middle of a struggle. It is only after an athlete comes through a difficult match that they can look back and smile, it is after the curtain is closed or a musical performance is complete that the actor or musician can look back with a sense of accomplishment and chuckle, and the student who studied very hard for an exam finally exhales and beams when the passing grade is handed back in class. But the most exhilarating sound of joy can always be found on the elementary school playground when students run and play with no worries.
It is the moments of joy that empower and energize students to continue on in the face of adversity. These moments make all the sacrifices worth it and reward students, fueling their confidence and encouraging them to do it all again.
Each year, we promote students to the next grade level. The transition years, into kindergarten, from 5th to 6th grade, 8th to 9th grade, and high school graduation, are the biggest. These promotions mark moments of time that our students are growing up and becoming more of who they are as individuals. They slowly begin to solidify what they want to become and how they want to positively impact the world. Their joy will be tied up in the decisions they make and the jobs they pursue. And as parents, friends, coaches, mentors, and teachers, knowing we played a small part, we find our own joy from who they become and their accomplishments.
In those few minutes when I spoke to those 5th graders, I did not hear any negativity. There was no doubt and certainly no talk of a dark future. The students were filled with optimism and a belief in the future. I believe we are in good hands knowing that these students will solve the world’s problems. As I walked away smiling, I had belief and hope in the future. And these thoughts give me joy.
-November 23, 2022
The "Superintendent's Column,"
by Dr. Thomas A. Gorman also appears in
"The Citizen" newspaper and on-line at "MontvilleTAP"