Watch any toddler try to recite the alphabet or count their numbers while jumping up and down, and you can’t help but notice the sheer joy of learning letters and numbers.
Every teacher longs to see the ecstasy of gaining new knowledge in their students, and now more than ever, teachers must strive to make the classroom a place of happiness. The emphasis on social and emotional learning throughout the program is undoubtedly geared towards raising awareness to have a more cohesive and engaged class. Yet it takes more than SEL to have joy in a classroom.
As recently as 2018, psychologists were still debating the concept of joy, and the body of work related to joy in psychology remains relatively small. Yet a group of psychologists, philosophers, and theologians are working to connect joy research to a more unified collection of work as part of an interdisciplinary approach. project entitled Theology of Joy and the Good Life (opens in a new tab) at Yale University.
Harvard Graduate School of Education is also meditate on the theme of the joy of teaching (opens in a new tab). In the recent article, the author quotes Decoteau Irby, who describes an erosion of joy in our schools and notes that while learning is not always a joyful experience, the confidence gained through academic struggle produces joy. . Gholdy Muhammad’s equity framework, as shared in his book Cultivate genius (opens in a new tab)includes joy as one of its five pillars.
Bringing Joy to Learning
How can a teacher go from SEL to JOY? Take into account definition of joy (opens in a new tab), and work backwards from there. Bearing in mind that in the definition, we learn that joy takes two forms: passive and active. Passive is related to feelings of contentment, and active involves a desire to share feelings with others and involves commitment. With this in mind, we are thinking of ways to engage the learner in a more positive, less overwhelming and intrinsic way.
To start infusing more joy into your classroom, consider these ideas:
- Provide students with the opportunity to experience some form of success throughout the day, as small accomplishments serve as catalysts for reaching larger learning goals.
- Join the game! All grade levels and all subjects can incorporate play elements.
- Provide choices. A student with options can be curious and creative.
- Be patient and allow enough time for students to enjoy the activity. This is similar to the wait time for questions, but seems much longer when trying to sign up for practice. Still, it can make a difference in your student’s level of engagement.
- Allow students to choose activities that match their interests and abilities.
- Encourage collaboration and creativity.
- Be flexible. The learning environment greatly influences a student’s desire to learn or to quit. Try to create a flexible classroom that accommodates a variety of interests and skill levels.
Students naturally want to learn (remember our toddler), and allowing them to have positive experiences through learning ultimately leads to joy. Our schools are full of emotions, and joy should be the main one.