Dean Shareski asked me (and many others) yesterday, “Whatever happened to joy?” A simple question really that should be easy to answer if you are a teacher – it’s right in our classrooms – but then again, one that requires more thought. Is joy really prevalent in our classrooms? Or is it reserved for special occasions or for those students who earn it?
Joy is often associated with special events in a classroom. We earn our joy and happiness through parties. When I gave up punishment and rewards, I didn’t get rid of joy, I just tried to make sure it was always present rather than something we marked on the calendar. And yet, in today’s learning environment we seem to reserve joy not just to special occasions but also to those who we find deserving of it. If a child is behind academically, joy is often one of the things we unintentionally remove from their day. We pull them out of specials for interventions. We take away their independent reading time to give more instruction. We take away recess and field trips due to poor behavior or more instruction. We have them work on missed homework rather than the challenge the other students are doing. Their joy in the classroom deemed unnecessary because joy does not lead to academic achievement.
And yet, these kids that struggle are exactly the kids that need more joy in school. They are the ones that we need to stay invested and engaged, not just the kid that is already mastering everything we present them with. They are the ones that need to realize the worth of school, that need to believe that school is worth their time and effort, and that they will get to do the exact same things as everyone else around them. That they will not be singled out once again for their supposed shortcomings, but rather treated as an equal that deserves to have as much fun learning as everyone else.
We know that students who struggle often act out to hide their deficit, so why is it we continue to punish rather than help? Why is it we continue to believe that if we just give them stricter consequences we will finally break their will and they will work better, hand in their homework, or try harder? These kids are the ones that need to find the joy in school, these kids are the ones who need it the most. So what are we doing to provide it?
I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released April 23rd from Powerful Learning Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.