We’ve often talked about the need for joy and efficiency in classrooms as separate ideas. Classrooms must be joyful so that kids want to be there, enjoy learning, and feel safe enough to take intellectual and social risks. Classrooms must also be efficient, meaning that time is well spent and that teachers can craft an effective path toward the learning goal without worrying about student misbehaviors or off-tasked-ness.
Today, I’m thinking about how adding joy to my class can actually drive efficiency. Can a class be optimally efficient without being joyful? I suspect not. Learning is inherently joyful, so when we structure class in a way that leads to boredom, disengagement, or apathy we’ve done something wrong and won’t be able to achieve our learning goals without a lot of pleading, teeth-pulling, or threatening consequences. When I have to convince kids to do the assignment or to participate in a class activity, I know that I’ve messed something up.
If you have some time today, ask yourself: What do I enjoy about learning? When have I experienced learning that made me feel more alive, more fully aware of myself, more passionate? What drives me to google something, to want to know more about it, to ask questions? When do I work my hardest to get something “right”? Most likely, if you can figure out how learning brings you joy, you can replicate this experience for your students.
So, when my class feels inefficient, I’m not going to ask myself how I could have emphasized routines more, or made directions clearer, or commanded the room with my “teacher voice” (not that these things are unimportant). I’m going to ask myself, what happened to the joy? How can I bring out what is most compelling about the content? How can I make sure my passion for the subject is contagious? I think this is a better starting point.