Jon Hazell: My Job Is a Treasure Hunt

Oklahoma City, (January 25, 2017) - Since being named Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year, one of the questions that I am most often asked goes something like this: “After 34 years in the classroom, how do you keep from being burned out?” Or, “How do you keep your passion after all these years?”

My answer has developed gradually as I have matured in both age and experience. I wish I had come to this realization sooner. (Hopefully some younger teachers might take this to heart and see the light sooner than I did.)

Several years ago, I read a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who said, “What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.” Suddenly the light came on, and I realized that one of the most critical components of my calling as a teacher was to find that well, that spring of life, that lies beneath the surface of every child who crosses my path. I have known so many teachers who have experienced burnout and dissatisfaction with their jobs, and while it is not true of them all, one common factor was that when they looked at a child, they saw the desert rather than the well (i.e. the problems, the poor attitude, the bad history or report from other teachers, etc.). Because that was where they focused, that is what shaped their attitude about their job.

I began to see my profession as a treasure hunt, literally. Each day when I arrive at school, I come with the expectation of discovering that well that lies beneath the surface and in the heart of every child (or adult for that matter; some of my colleagues need help from time to time), and it brings a level of challenge and excitement not only to my workday but my life. I find energy in the constant expectation that I am going to discover that well and show that child how to bring the water to the surface to bring meaning and life to everything he does. Anyone who does not get excited by the joy that lights up a child’s face when she finally discovers that life and that purpose probably will not be able to find satisfaction with anything.

I cannot wait to get to school each day, and I cannot wait for my children to arrive, because I know I am going to discover that well in someone, and that is going to positively impact his life forever! How awesome is that? And while that will not happen with every child every day, it adds to the challenge and the excitement of knowing that the next discovery, in the next child, is just around the corner.

My calling is to be a treasure hunter, but the treasure that I discover each day is more valuable than all of the gold and silver in the world; it is the well-source of life in the heart of a child. Who, more than a teacher, is presented with the opportunity to experience this thrill every single day she goes to work?

Nothing could be more exciting and fulfilling than that.

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Last updated on February 2, 2017