A smile. A nod. A compliment. An acknowledgement. A recognition of being.
All of these spread joy — they are a moment in time taken to relate to those around us– to acknowledge each one’s presence in our busy and focused world of a struggling school. And it may be that moment that makes some else’s day- that lifts their spirit such that they look forward to engage more.
Joy, excerpt definition from the LearnersDictionary:
1 a feeling of great happiness
2 a source or cause of great happiness : something or someone that gives joy to someone
3 British, informal: success in doing, finding, or getting something
In this post at Escheweducationalist, the blogger’s one word is humility — because we must develop our humility to fail and that:
…our learners need to see us as human. The myth(lie) of perfection must be debunked. Students must see us as capable of making a mess of things while modelling the resilience to learn from it each time.
He goes on to say:
the humility to fail, fall and move forward in my classroom. Here’s to another FAIL…future attempts in learning!
I’ve failed in many ways, but I’ve always gotten back up to try again, and have tried to build that resilience in my students by offering frequent feedback for their improvement. Because we are human and not perfect. So I’ve practiced the humility needed to get back up. But the world of politics and mandates beat us down.
So I’ve received inspiration and direction from my personal learning network, to speak up, ask questions, and start conversations, as Donna Fry mentions in her One Word Post:
How do we create the conditions that allow our best thinkers, our teacher leaders, to thrive?
No longer is it necessary for educators to progress through a series of AQ courses or PQP qualifications to learn and think deeply about practice. Rich learning and conversations are available 24/7 on social media like twitter. Leaders with and without titles are learning and sharing with others around the world.
But are their own colleagues open to their new thinking?
What happens when school, board and provincial policies are challenged by educators who think differently? Is anyone listening? More importantly, is anyone providing encouragement to continue?
It takes enormous courage to question those who make decisions about public education. Are we embracing those who ask the questions?
Her word is courage: “We all need to have the courage to put student learning at the very centre of every decision we make, even if it means challenging the status quo.” I’ll let others work this fight; it’s one of my failures — helping staff see the importance and relevance connectedness and sharing.
Still, it is student learning that is most important, and yet, on what are we basing “student learning?” The mandates are added depending on one test, one score. That “sameness” as Ira Socal proposed in 2012 that we are required to create:
But there is a place where human diversity is considered something quite negative… that’s in the traditional school, in the traditional classroom. In those places we assume that all humans are essentially the same, that they develop at the exact same pace, that they have the same skills – and should have the same skills. This is not just an assumption, it is the law in the United States and many other nations. It drives almost all educational policy coming from Washington, Westminster, Canberra, Ottawa. It is even “built in” in most spaces, where matching desks line up in matching rooms and matching schedules move children through matching days.
And it is time for us, as we head toward the middle of the 21st Century, to stop all this. It is time to dispense with age-based grades and grade-level-“expectations,” time to rid ourselves of assignments where everyone works on the same thing much less in the same way, time to rid ourselves of time schedules which limit learning, time to move beyond “Universal Design” to learning studios where differentiated humans learning to live and work together…
…begin differently, we develop differently, we learn things at different rates, we help each other learn, and we take on differing tasks in life…
The “Learning Studio” is a place where all this will happen continuously, and sort-of naturally. Where those ahead in one thing help those they can help, while getting help in things where others are ahead. Where we learn to use the tools we need to manipulate the world to our benefit. Where we learn to work well alone and together. Where we learn to be safe ourselves and how to make safe environments for others. Where we develop skills at our own rates.
A Learning Studio. Naturally. Develop skills at our own rates. That’s putting student learning first — with students working and learning together, helping each other in a safe place. How can students feel safe when their determination is based on a number? How do teachers feel safe when their asked to prove themselves daily in new evaluation systems? These tests of students and teachers take time away from their real work — learning and growing together. Standards? Yes, but not standardization. Standards at where the student is, not where we are forcing them to be. Because, as Ira says, “…begin differently, we develop differently, we learn things at different rates, we help each other learn, and we take on differing tasks in life…”
So, I look at my own face in the mirror and my students’ faces and efforts in the classroom, and I see the loss of joy. Alfie Kohn says it best in his post from 2004: Feel Bad Education: The Cult of Rigor and The Loss of Joy:
The irony is, appropriately enough, painful: Academic excellence, the usual rationale for such decisions, is actually far more likely to flourish when students enjoy what they’re doing. “Children (and adults, too) learn best when they are happy,” as Nel Noddings observes in her book Happiness and Education. How they feel—about themselves, about their teachers, about the curriculum and the whole experience of school—is crucially related to the quality of their learning. Richer thinking is more likely to occur in an atmosphere of exuberant discovery, in the kind of place where kids plunge into their projects and can’t wait to pick up where they left off yesterday.
Regardless of age, race, or aptitude, students are more likely to remember and really understand what they’ve read if they find it intriguing.
But in pointing this out, I fear that I’m appearing to accept an odious premise—namely, that joy must be justified as a means to the end of better academic performance. Not so: It’s an end in itself. Not the only end, perhaps, but a damned important one.
Joy: a feeling of happiness from the situation around us, a satisfaction from something good, like learning. That’s what Steven Wolk explains in his 2008 Educational Leadership article, “Joy in School”:
According to my Random House dictionary, joy means, “The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something good or satisfying.” Surely our schools can do some of that. Joy and learning—including school content—are not mutually exclusive. Many of our greatest joys in life are related to our learning. Unfortunately, most of that joyful learning takes place outside school.
As educators, we have the responsibility to educate and inspire the whole child—mind, heart, and soul. By focusing on the following essentials, we can put more joy into students’ experience of going to school and get more joy out of working inside one.
Steven provides eleven strategies for adding joy back into our schools, including assessment strategies like the conference, portfolios, and re-thinking of “failure.” But number one is “Find the Pleasure in Learning”:
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990), such learning is an example of flow, which he defines as
the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it at even great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it. (p. 4)
If we want students to experience more flow in school—if we want them to see school and learning as joyful—we need to rethink how and what we teach. No longer can schooling be primarily about creating workers and test takers, but rather about nurturing human beings (Wolk, 2007). By helping students find the pleasure in learning, we can make that learning infinitely more successful.
So, since 2004, these resources have emphasized the importance of Joy to learning, and still we haven’t realized its potential for learning.
How do we bring Joy back to the classroom — for teachers and students?
To experience joy in the classroom, two things are important: relationships and engagement. The experts at success and happiness in the workplace and education are the Gallup studies.
Five broad categories that are essential to most people.
- The first element is about how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day: your Career Wellbeing.
- The second element is about having strong relationships and love in your life: your Social Wellbeing.
- The third element is about effectively managing your economic life: your Financial Wellbeing.
- The fourth element is about having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis: your Physical Wellbeing.
- The fifth element is about the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live: your Community Wellbeing.
- Do you like what you do each day?
- Do you have friends at school?
- Do you have the things you need to do your work? [pencils, paper, access, etc.]
- Do you have time to exercise and eat well? [Our school provides snacks as well as breakfast and lunch :)]
- Do you participate in activities in class and around the school?
For me, I can ensure:
- To like our work: downtime to reflect and share; choices; class meetings; sharing circles; building hope
- For friends: be aware of relationships and those needing support; As mentor: develop those relationships
- For preparedness: have access to paper, pens, devices for those that need it; differentiate
- For physical needs: comfort in activities; make sure students receive snacks, breaks, recess, lunch, etc.
- For participation: create an inviting climate in the classroom and around the school; For community-building: Ask parents the question, What’s your child’s story [see Steve Wyborney’s post]
Because I teach the whole child, because their wellbeing is most important, because wellbeing is a sense of joy; because wellbeing brings engagement, I must encourage joy. It must come first; it builds belonging and community. It’s the invitation to join, to have friends, to participate, to know someone cares. As Steven Pink reminds us, “start treating people like people.” If we start treating people like people [instead of scores], we will consider the climate of the classroom. Then we will also ask: How do we improve engagement? Steven Pink’s response is: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. That brings us back to the Gallup research in education:
“By contrast, about two-thirds of students have high well-being, which is defined as how people think about and experience their lives. To determine well-being, the survey asks whether students feel respected, laugh a lot, and are healthy and energetic.
Well-being accounts for approximately 8 percent of student achievement, based on what Mr. Lopez called the “least strategic analysis” of the group’s statistical modeling.
Mr. Lopez was careful to point out that hope, engagement, and well-being do not necessarily account for a total of 30 percent of the variance in student achievement, despite what the figures seem to suggest. “You have to look at how they work together,” he said. That said, the three indicators do account for a large portion and “deserve more of our attention,” he argued.
The major piece the three indicators have in common, Mr. Lopez said, is positive emotion. “You have to have a little bit of joy juice to do well in school,” he said.”
So student success is linked to hope, engagement, and wellbeing. Hope — the feeling that you can succeed. That’s differentiation and relationships — scaffolding and encouragement. Wellbeing — those five elements. Engagement — Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose. But through all of those, the research shows, “You have to have a little bit of joy juice to do well in school” That’s a big commonality — joy.
And that’s my one word for this year. For my students. For their learning. Because it’s that important.
Other Resources and Reasons for JOY in schools:
Edreform and The Return to Individualismcontext of caring — the deficit policies in place cannot provide the caring –“Only the known human beings involved in our lives can have this effect”The first task in the daily work the educator is recognize the limitations of the deficit gaze. Because this requires a context of care, a personal knowledge that can not be abstracted from lived context and then “scaled up,” this is not the job of policy. The choices we make as a community that are reflected in policy absolutely matter. But policy can not do the job of caring. Only the known human beings involved in our lives can have this effect. It is a necessary and tragic limitation of policy.
William Isaacs, author of the book Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together, describes this deep form of respect:
“Respect is not a passive act. To respect someone is to look for the spring that feeds the pool of their experience… At its core, the act of respect invites us to see others as legitimate. We may not like what they do or say or think, but we cannot deny their legitimacy as beings. In Zulu, a South African language, the word Sawu bona is spoken when people greet one another and when they depart. It means ‘I see you.’ To the Zulus, being seen has more meaning than in Western cultures. It means that the person is in some real way brought more fully into existence by virtue of the fact that they are seen.”