It’s time for a classroom checkup…
QUICK, five words or less, describe your classroom. Go!
Currently I would say:
The good news from this current analysis- the words “sad,” “frustrated,” or “angry” did not pop into my mind. But the bad news would be that “happy, “joyful,” or “excited” didn’t come close to mind. I started reflecting on this classroom checkup, and decided maybe it’s time to be purposeful of increasing JOY in my classroom.
The first thing to embed joy into a busy classroom is to share my joy. What makes me happy as an individual? If I’m happy, would the students’ happiness levels increase? I wanted to focus on what makes me happy as an everyday person, not an educator. Quite honestly, as an educator, my happiness stems from different needs from the students. When I level the playing field and look at happiness as a human, it takes out the politics and pressure of education. Selfishly, I knew that if my classroom environment had more music, I would feel calmer and happier. So the next day, I played music during our individual work times and centers. Toes were tapping, bodies were swaying, and there were lots of smiles and happy faces. Music made us happy.
Next, I reflected on my personal hobbies. I love anything outdoors, and especially plants! So I took a trip downtown to visit a cute little plant shop. I bought two Venus Fly Traps, knowing the students would get a kick out of them. The day I introduced the fly traps was one of the happiest, relaxing days in my career. The children were thrilled to observe the fly traps and make predictions about the life of a current fly inhabitant. Sharing my love of plants created a joyful learning environment.
Nothing frustrates me more than a hands-off workshop or training. I’ve been to so many that I do have very high expectations of a good learning experience for teachers. Shouldn’t we have the same expectation for students? When I created my reading centers this year, I’ve decided to go “old school,” and bring back some great ideas from Guided Reading and Montessori. Remember when they had ideas of embedding science into reading centers? I took that idea and have created a writing center with lots of fun hands-on science objects that kids love to explore: rocks, minerals, plants, dead cactus, insects, and magnets. The children have to write 3 sentences about their scientific findings and ask 3 questions. Real-life explorations creates joy!
I stumbled across the last joyful experience with my students last month. Three of my students were chosen to show off their digital citizenship skills at Governing Board meeting, and I took them out to frozen yogurt afterwards. Their parents were chaperoning and drove the children to the frozen yogurt shop. Relaxing with frozen yogurt created stronger relationships between the families and I. We shared a joyful personal experience as a community outside of school, building relationships.
A joyful classroom is happy, creative, productive, and builds positive relationships. How do you purposefully increase joy in your classroom?