The Tuesday keynote speaker at ITEC this year was Dean Shareski. The title of his talk was, “The Relentless Pursuit of Joy.” It was a good presentation. Essentially, at the core, the big idea was emphasizing the importance of student engagement through a strengths-based approach: a great message. The way to get there or the “how” was the pursuit of joy. Shareski shared this early lip-dub produced in 2009 from Wartburg here in Iowa that apparently ignited this line of thought. His ending call was that all educators need to make it a priority to design for or set the conditions that make joy possible for everyone in their classroom (including the teacher). Again, great stuff!
As I filtered this through my own experience, I realized this presentation had helped me to articulate some new insights about Koan. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t wish a child with Koan’s condition on anyone else, but I would not change him. I’ve tried to explain why this is the case many times before, but I understand why even more deeply now. Shareski shared many, many brief examples of people experiencing joy. It didn’t take me long to realize that I see that emotion all the time. Koan is the most joyful person I’ve ever met. I no longer need to actively seek out joy (although I do), it’s with me every day.
The brief, “bath time” clip is actually a very reserved expression for Koan. But, you get the idea — even the most mundane task is a reason to get excited. He gives a joyful reaction when I come into his room each morning. When I prepare his breakfast (or any meal), he exudes joy. Koan loves, loves, loves, to go to school. So, the staff that gives him a ride to and from school each day get to share in his joy. Unsurprisingly, the transportation team loves him. When I get home from work, without exception, I get a gleeful greeting. He enjoys the bedtime experience, so we get a happy-dance then, too. Going to Target or Hy Vee is also reason to celebrate in Koan’s world — any trip in the car. His joy is contagious. We overflow with joy in our house. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
Of course, it’s not sunshine and flowers all the time. We carry burdensome worry about his future. Koan occasionally gets frustrated and he can’t tell us why. That’s hard. There’s also the difficult day to day tasks, lifting him, changing his briefs (not something I expected to being doing at this point in my life), bathing him, feeding him, etc… Again, I would not wish the uncertainty, the drudgery, and the worry upon anyone. But, joy is a priceless currency and our family comes out so far ahead in the emotional transaction.