Bringing Joy Back Into the Classroom

Published January 25, 2014

Joy is a great accelerator of instruction. But the opposite–drudgery—is currently all over the portrayal of education. No wonder superior education is hindered, since it has to overcome such widespread negative detractors.

Learning is emotionally connected. A teacher succeeds best when imparting to students positive feelings of the importance of learning in their words and actions every day. The students will do the rest with such positive guidance. However, if learning is seen as dull or unimportant, it becomes stultified.

Learning is accelerated by positive emotions. It sports exhilarating brainstorms. Electrons in the brain flash through nerve cell synapses—and another parcel of knowledge is solidified. Brainstorms engender a great desire for more brainstorms. It’s a true “high.” It becomes tantalizingly habit-forming.

We don’t have to worry about filling up our brains. There are billions of nerve cells available for action.

A conflicting influence is unfortunately found in popular media. It shows little positive about learning in schools. Rather gangsters, indifferent students, sports, love stories, goofy teachers, and so on abound. In almost all movies with school stories one sees gang members taking over, or contentious students upsetting calm classrooms, or sports teams outgunning academics, or love stories overcoming sensibilities, or teachers getting sidelined, or principals being mocked. Where’s the exciting learning being portrayed? Where is the whole purpose of schools shown?

A movie such as “Stand and Deliver” about teacher Jaime Escalante succeeding in math instruction at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles is just one in a hundred. “Sister Act” and Sister Act 2″ with Whoopi Goldberg have a few inspiring learning experiences.

Unfortunately, diversionary movies are much the regular fare: “Blackboard Jungle,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Grease,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Terms that are used in discussions of learning are important. They can be prejudicial in the wrong way if misused. They can be excellently guiding if used properly. Learning is not “work.” That has the connotation of drudgery. Rather, learning is joyous and inspiring.

So let’s dump the wrong words. Let’s give “learning” a new perspective. It’s no longer “homework” but “home learning.” It’s no longer “classwork” but “class learning.” After using these terms a while, we can get out of the rut that the words “homework” and “classwork” have misguided us into. We don’t need to continue with glum attitudea.

As each class day starts, a teacher needs to instill the right tone for the students. A fine start-up greeting would be, “Good morning young men and ladies, I’m happy to see you. Let’s see what fine things you can do today.”

The term “education” itself gives guidance. Learning is led out (educere) of students by effective teachers with the right vision.

The benefits to be gained will be the exponential output of real learning daily by millions. True advances for the individual students, and the country at large. And teacher satisfaction in facilitating this meaningful and joyous output.

Image by WoodleyWonderworks.