Monday, September 29, 2014

On Joy In Learning

There is a great deal of effort that goes into researching whether children are scoring highly on tests, and how to make those scores higher. There is also a lot of time spent in Human Services circles on why students are depressed, angry, or bored.  I wonder often why it is that we don't spend our time trying to measure joy?

From Education Week:
"No matter how frequently or how beautifully you describe the joys of childhood, those who are making education policy will not be deterred or persuaded. Their agenda is competitiveness. They are in the throes of data-driven decision-making, which has become a sort of mantra that takes the place of actual thinking." 

So that's what I worry about: Are we letting children even have "joys of childhood" anymore?  And, by "children", I mean K-12.  Teenagers need joy too, as I wrote about here. Is the replacement of toys, music instruments, dress-up clothes, and stuffed animals in childhood classrooms with math manipulatives and leveled reading books creating a love of school?
I don't know. But I think we need all of it.

Here is what I wonder: 
Why do we always have to have joy couched in another, measurable, agenda? 

If a project in art turns out to be too tedious, joyless, and not fulfilling to the majority of students, I scrap it. Done deal. I will find another way to teach those concepts the next time. Joy, itself, matters.  It matters to me because happy students are engaged and focused people who are delighted to be learning. 

Weaving project begins- an expert enthusiastically telling me all he knows about spiders.
Let me be clear to those who would say that it is too easy to find joy in art, and too hard to insert into, say, math. In my years as a daily and long term substitute in K-5 classrooms, I have taught many, many math lessons, and I try to approach it with the same excitement and wide eyes that my wonderful 4th grade math teacher idol, Mrs. Callie Alexander, approached her classes.

We all remember a Mrs. Alexander, that one teacher, the educator who instilled joy into that subject you thought you disliked. The teacher who made learning joyful.  Not because it was measurable, required, or part of a test, but because seeing your students' joy is cyclical- it becomes the teacher's joy, which in turn becomes student joy, ever forward into a love of learning which drives itself- not towards a test, but towards curiosity, investigation, and true understanding.

1 comment:

  1. Mrs. Elliott-
    I love this post. I appreciate the pictures and the words and the sentiment. Thanks for bringing joy to RES kids and reinforcing this goal as a meaningful and necessary is something we all need to speak of often!