Finding JOY in the Small Moments

Bridget GenglerBlog, Reflect Better, Self Care Better, Teach Happier


  • The past few years during the pandemic have been some of the most difficult for everyone.
  • People have suffered great losses.
  • Throughout this time, learning to find JOY in the small moments has been imperative.
  • Even in the darkest moments, JOY is there waiting for us if we just seek it.

What is JOY?

Joy is the little glimmer of hope that shines from one’s soul. It is one’s encounter with another. It is the intentional effort to look beyond the challenges in life and seek the blessings that create gratitude in the moment. 

When I take the time to find joy, it helps me to cherish my blessings and be grateful for the life I am given. Click To Tweet

Through Life’s Challenges Emerges the JOY

When the whole pandemic started back in 2020 and schools closed down, many people didn’t know what to expect or how long it would last. We had to learn new ways of teaching, learning, connecting, and being. My main focus for the remainder of the school year was the well-being of my students and their families. I would check in on all of them almost daily and provide whatever support I could. I would look for the good amidst the darkness. 

Then the summer came, and we all thought we would be back in the school buildings at the end of August. But, my district along with many districts in California, decided to stay virtual. So we adjusted to this new normal in a world of Zoom. We did not end up returning to our school building until March 2021. 

To say that the school year of 2020-2021 was the most difficult of my career would be an understatement. Like many other people, not only was life challenging professionally, but also personally. My whole extended family had managed to stay healthy until December 2020. Although we all live in different places, many in the family contracted Covid that month. This included my dear parents. My mother quickly recovered, but my father got more sick every day.  Consequently, he was admitted to the hospital. During that time, we had daily conversations where lots of love was spoken, hoping that he would be coming home soon.

However, that was not in the plan. My brother, who is a doctor, informed my siblings and me that our dad was not going to make it. Covid had destroyed his lungs. Thankfully, my brother was able to arrange hospice so that we could fulfill my dad’s final wish—to come home and be with his wife and family. 

We all flew to Arizona to be with our dad. His wife, eight children, and most of his grandchildren were there to meet him when he arrived home. 

JOY in My Heart

It was the most beautiful moment when the ambulance workers wheeled him into the house. His face lit up, and he just kept saying, “Amazing!” We all felt a peace come over the room because we knew how content he was. That moment will live on in my heart as a lasting imprint of joy. 

We spent the next two days sharing stories, laughter, songs, and prayer. We were all able to get time with our dad. During my time with him, I told him I was going to fulfill our shared dream—to write. I promised him that I was going to pursue our passion and make it more than just a hobby. My father lived his last days on Earth exactly where he wanted to be—with his wife and family. How could I not find joy in that time?

Although my dad’s passing was devastating, and I miss him immensely, there was so much joy in those final days. It is the joy that creeps up in my heart and reminds me that there is a lot to be grateful for in this life. Despite all our challenges in life, joy can create a small light that shines through the tiniest opening. We need to look for that light. That light that may be dim at times, but it is there if we seek it. That light that creates a drop of joy and a flicker of hope

Teaching with JOY

Teaching is difficult. It was before the pandemic, and it is even more so now. But there is always something to be grateful for that carries the offering of joy. 

That is what this blog series will offer.

The joy found in the ordinary day when one may feel exhausted and defeated. It is the joy found in the different encounters throughout the day. It is the wonderment found in the smiles and voices of our students. Joy is the blessings received from the kindness of our colleagues. It is the love of our school community. The contentment found in the many lessons taught. It is the joy found in the small moments.

Being Intentional with Finding Our JOY

Joy is always there peeking out. We just need to open our hearts and minds to it. Sometimes we need to be intentional with finding it. We need to seek it in those times and places where we might least expect it. We need to look for it in those moments that may be overshadowed by the darkness. If we take the time to seek it, then we eventually will find it. It is there waiting to be magnified. 

Since my dad’s passing, I walk with a different intention. The intention is to see the moments that create joy in my life. For those are the moments that truly matter to me. They leave me with a feeling of contentment. When I take the time to find joy, it helps me to cherish my blessings and be grateful for the life I am given. 

[scroll down to keep reading]

 Those Small Moments

Some of my small joys of this school year:

  • the claps of celebration that my students create for each other
  • the check-in that they have with me after recess and lunch: “How was your break, Mrs. G?” 
  • the colleague that walks into my classroom at the perfect moment
  • the smile from the quietest child

Those are some of the moments when I am grateful for all the small blessings that fill my day. 

They are small moments that fill my heart with JOY! 

They are the moments that remind me to always teach with joy.

About Bridget Gengler

Bridget Gengler is a fourth-grade teacher in Long Beach, California. She has taught bilingual education, general education, and GATE for the past 26 years. She’s passionate about building relationships and a strong classroom community that opens up doors of success for her students. She strives to empower all students to share their voices and their stories. Her class motto is “ You matter! You are important! You have a story to tell and we want to hear it!” She brings her love of reading and writing to the classroom in the hopes that it will promote lifelong readers and writers.

Bridget believes that self-care is essential in an educator’s life. She takes time to focus on gratitude, mindfulness, and kindness during the day. She contributes this balance to her success in the classroom.

Family is number one for her! Her most precious job is being a mom to four young adults, an energetic lab puppy, and a wife to a wonderful husband. When she is not teaching, writing, or reading she is creating memories with them. They love to travel, discover new restaurants, and watch professional baseball.