New Year’s Intention: Making Our Classroom a Joyful Place

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Announcing my one little word (OLW) for 2022.. drumrolls please… JOY! Focusing on joy, recognizing it and creating joyful experiences; I can’t think of a better way to practice resilience during these dark and difficult times.

I feel the urgency to write this post before returning to work in a few hours because when I put words on the page and send them out to the world, I am more likely to live up to them.

So, how can I bring this intention into my teaching life? In the spirit of Ted Lasso, how can I harness my inner Ted ?

Be an observer of myself and my students

I have set a reminder on my phone stating: LOOK FOR JOY! Every hour I will see these words and be reminded to take a breath and ask myself: “Are you feeling joyful right now?” And then I'll look around the room and ask: “Are your students smiling? Laughing? Connecting with one another?”

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then I will do something about it!

Offer students opportunities to create joy together

I am calling this January: “Joyful January! “ and my plan is to invite my students to get in on this plan! As they walk into our classroom this morning feeling one part excited to see one another and the other party groggy and wishing they were still in bed, I’ll welcome them back with this question:

What brings you joy?
Or to simplify and build to that idea: What makes you happy?

We'll share responses and consider how they can inspire joyful practices in our classroom. Below are a few ideas I am bringing to the table.

1. Dance party Friday. This idea comes from my dear friend and colleague Shelley Fenton. Shelley started this tradition with her fourth graders one Friday to celebrate her entire class being together again after weeks of quarantine. With a disco ball spinning above, Shelley and her students begin the day dancing for 10 minutes to tunes on their class playlist.

2. Class playlist. This idea came to me as I was driving to yoga and listening to my first song of 2022. I wanted something joyful so I put on REM’s version of “Love is All Around”. Yes, a bit goofy but I love this song! Anyway, I started thinking about the power of music to lift our moods and bring joy to our lives. I wondered about my students' music choices and whether they are aware of how those choices make them feel. Hence, the idea for the class playlist. In order to make the playlist, we’ll explore these questions this month:

What is your favorite song?
What song do you listen to when you want to feel better?
Which song makes you want to get up and dance?
Which song do you belt out when no one is listening?

3. FLOP or BOP. Also involving music, I play different songs of my choosing and students vote is it a “flop?” or a “bop” It is great fun and exposes students to new songs and different genres of music!

4. Acting: Not only does acting out a scene from a text engage students and support all sorts of comprehension skills, it leads to laughter and creates joy. My students LOVE doing it so we'll be sure to do it more!

5. Play: Class kickball games have become a regular event at recess but I wonder, how can we include more play and games during our day? Playing charades with our vocabulary words is definitely on the agenda but I would love more ideas! Feel free to share in the comments below!

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That is what I have so far. I can’t wait to see what my students add to this list and what other ideas we discover together!

Finally, to all my teacher friends reading this as you prepare to return to work, I wish you a joyful January and year ahead.

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