"Every artist was at first an amateur." - Ralph W. Emerson
As 2019 comes to an end, I’m spending time reflecting on the year and thinking about personal and professional goals I want to achieve in 2020. I won’t share my personal goals; however, I will share a professional goal, which is to increase the number of opportunities for students to find joy in learning. Don’t get me wrong, many of our students enjoy learning; however, there are many students who do not. Why is this for many of our learners and what can we do to help students enjoy learning? In an article titled, Joy in School, by Steven Wolk (2008), the author speaks about educators' “responsibility to educate and inspire the whole child—mind, heart, and soul.” Furthermore, Steven Wolk focuses on essential ways to “put more joy into students' experience of going to school and get more joy out of working inside one.” Here are five of the author’s ideas:
1: Find the Pleasure in Learning: “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.” (Wolk, 2008)
2: Give Students Choice: “Joy in learning usually requires some ownership on the part of the learner. Students can own some of their school learning in several ways. They can choose the books they want to read through independent reading. In writing workshop, we can inspire them to be real writers and choose for themselves what genres to write in. During units in math, science, art, and social studies, they can choose specific subtopics to study; then, as "experts," they can share their learning with the class. Students can also choose which products they want to create to demonstrate their learning.” (Wolk, 2008)
3: Let Students Create Things: “People like to make stuff. Having control of our work and using our minds and hands to create something original give us a tremendous sense of agency. There is a special pride in bringing an original idea to fruition. It empowers us and encourages us; it helps us appreciate the demanding process of creating something from nothing.” (Wolk, 2008)
4: Take Time to Tinker: “At Tinkering School, students are allowed to dream. They come up with their own ideas for an object, and the faculty and staff help them sketch, design, and build it. When have you seen a public school that encouraged students to come up with "grand schemes, wild ideas, crazy notions, and intuitive leaps of imagination"? In fact, schools actually work to prevent this from happening.” (Wolk, 2008)
5: Transform Assessment: “We need to help students understand the value of assessment. We also need to rethink "failure." Our schools see failure as a bad thing. But adults know that failure is a vital part of learning. Portraying failure as a bad thing teaches a child to avoid risk-taking and bold ideas. Imagine if we graded toddlers on their walking skills. We would be living in a nation of crawlers.” (Wolk, 2008)
The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough have much to celebrate. There are amazing educators and students, and engaged communities. However, there are always opportunities for growth and ensuring the learning organization is doing everything it can to “inspire the whole child—mind, heart, and soul.” I believe the Steven Wolk ideas have merit. I hope you have a restful December holiday and I wish you a happy New Year.
(I’ve included a link to Steven Wolk’s article, Joy in School, if you’re interested in reading more.)
Wolk, S. (2008). Joy in School. Educational Leadership, 66(1), 8-15. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept08/vol66/num01/Joy-in-School.aspx
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