You Can’t Teach Joy

Allow yourself to experience joy via Removing the Stumbling Block

I recently wrote about the difference between joy and fun. I feel strongly that as a society we continue to conflate the two, leading children and others to believe that fun is necessary or “required” in order to experience joy. This is felt particularly keenly, I think, in the world of education. Too many educators are spending their time figuring out ways to make their lessons more fun rather than considering what would help their students experience joy. As I shared in that last post, I don’t care if my students have fun in my classroom.

I don't really care if my students are having fun; Removing the Stumbling BlockBy the way, I know that they often do have fun, because many have told me as much. But I still don’t care. This is not my goal. My goal is to find ways to help my students experience joy.

So I guess now you are expecting me to write a post that will tell you how to do it. Nope. I can’t.

Because you can’t teach joy.

I can’t say, “Try this – it will bring joy to your students,” or “This is a sure-fire technique to bring joy to any classroom”. The experience of joy is a personal, individual experience. It is unique to each person. No two students will experience joy in the same way, at the same time or for the same reason. And even the same person won’t experience joy in the same way twice – no matter how similar the circumstances.

So what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to make it possible for our students to have such experiences if all of the variables keep changing?

helping children to experience joy; Removing the Stumbling Block

Here, my friends, is where the link between joy and being committed to inclusion comes in. Helping children to experience joy will require an individualized and nuanced approach based on meaningful goals and is dependent upon a trusting relationship. Sound familiar? If you are committed to being inclusive, you can be committed to helping students experience joy (and, I believe, vice versa).

Just because you can’t teach joy, doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate it.

Be mindful. Be deliberate. Focus on relationships. Be flexible. Pay attention to detail. Breathe.

Most importantly, allow yourself to experience joy. Your students will follow.

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