Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kids on the Way to the Park: Is Joy Stifled in School?

There is a playground in my development.

During the summer, I have the pleasure of listening to children as they travel to the playground.

The excitement can't be contained, talking, laughing, running!

"Come back!" "Don't go too far!" "Wait!", parents trying to contain them, understandably, not wanting them to go too far ahead.

The pure, unadulterated joy of going to the playground, of knowing what is a few feet ahead. The jungle gym, swings, seesaw, grass to run in!

And then I think about school compared to the playground. What awaits them in school? What awaits them in our classrooms? Do they come to school with the same sense of joy? Or do they drag ,dreading what awaits them?

Tons of worksheets, test prep, assessments, no recess, and/or absence of the arts?

Has school become a place of data overload, constant barrage of assessments, and strict adherence to standards?

Is so much time spent on making sure we meet goals established by non-educators, that school has become a place of dread for students and educators alike?

If a child does not want to come to school, there is nothing we can teach them, nothing they can learn.

If a teacher does not want to be in the classroom, what level of teaching can be expected?

We need to bring joy into our classrooms. Joy does not mean teachers entertaining students, but engaging them. Giving them a chance to learn in a meaningful way. Giving them ownership of their learning. Giving them a place that feels like home should feel, safe, secure, and welcoming. Making school,or at least the  classroom, a place they want to be.

School should be a place of joy for teachers as well.  A place where their opinions are valued. A place where they get to make decisions about what's best for their students. A place where they are given the tools they need to engage their students. A place where they are not constantly looking over their shoulders for the "accountability" axe to fall. A place where they are teaching not testing. A place where they don't mind coming to every day.

 Let's make school a place teachers and students want to be, let's return joy to the classroom!

photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via photopin cc


  1. A set of happy kids coming to class in the morning, would be any teacher's dream coming true too! A hopeful and cheerful kid is so much easier to teach, to educate, and to see, in general. But this wonderful expression comes only once the students know they can look forward to a tension-free environment, with no one pressuring them on.

  2. I agree the atmosphere needs to be motivating and engaging in order for the children to be engaged and enthused. However, I believe the clue as to why children do not often approach school with the same attitude to the playground or park, lies in the obligation to go everyday. A nice treat is always great when we are given it once in a while, but make it a forced thing without choice and it becomes tired and less exciting. Another factor is that teachers, no matter how much they may love their job, cannot be 100% inspired and enthused 24/7. This is mainly due to the fact that teachers are overworked and under paid.
    But what we can do is refuse to give up on the pursuit of professional and personal development and continue to deliver exciting, motivating and engaging activities inside and outside the classroom!