It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy
in creative expression and knowledge.
– Albert Einstein
I think that my major role as an educator is to invite joy. I have always thought this from the beginning of my career over forty years ago. Maybe it’s because I started teaching in a nursery school. You can’t help to be joyful when teaching two, three, and four-year-old children. They actually exude joie de vivre and happily invite adults into their world. It’s a great place to dwell.
When I began teaching elementary school, I found that older children also respond to joy no matter their gender, socio-economic status, race, or academic progress. Indeed, children who struggled with academics or behavior were even more in need of joy and became more motivated when their teachers found a way to invite them into joyful learning. It’s amazing what a little happiness will do.
These days, joy-filled learning is crucial. Spreading joy is easy. You just need to listen to children and take an interest in who they are and what they like to do. This morning, I started my day in my favorite place, the school library. As I chatted with our librarian, children drifted in to return books. Riley, an artistic and creative fifth grader, wandered in. I greeted her enthusiastically and asked if she would like to create a comic strip for our school literary magazine. For years, Riley has shared her drawings and handmade books with me. Riley grinned from ear to ear and nodded her head enthusiastically. I immediately knew that I had done the right thing by asking her. She came closer and asked what kind of comic strip she should make. I told her to use her imagination. Maybe she’d like to include her llama or frog characters. She smiled, dug in her pocket, and showed me a tiny notebook she created. She promised to work on the comic strip and show it to me when she had it sketched out. Then she skipped away, and my heart felt lighter knowing that I had added a little joy in her day.
Next, Naomi walked in. Naomi is a tinker-master. She loves building things with her hands. For several years, she has signed up to create crafts with me in our Wonder Lab. And when Wonder Lab was closed because of COVID, Naomi created projects at home, taught her little sisters, and sent me videos of her work. I marveled at her initiative and ingenuity. I felt remorse that Wonder Lab had been closed for a year and a half. This year, it reopened in a smaller space with a new name, Wonder Studio. I can take only a limited number of children in the Wonder Studio at a time, so Naomi has not had as much time creating at school as she had in the past. I called over to her and asked her if she’d like to create a crafting page for our school magazine. As soon as the words escaped my mouth, Naomi’s whole body started to vibrate. She literal bounced up and down. I looked over at our librarian and we smiled at each other. “I guess that means – yes,” I said. Naomi continue to bounce and nodded her head. It was not even 8:30 in the morning and I had made two little girls extremely happy. And it was easy to do, and it was fun, and it made a difference. If nothing else positive happened today, that was okay with me because I had spread some joy and encouraged creativity. My work was done for the day!
Books on Joy for Kids
- Black Boy Joy by Kwame Mbalia
- Grandma’s Joy by Eloise Greenfield
- Olivia Dances for Joy by Natalie Shaw
- Sparkles of Joy: A Children’s Book That Celebrates Diversity and Inclusion by Aditi Wardhan
- The Joy in You by Cat Deeley
- The Little Book of Joy: 365 Ways to Celebrate Every Day by Joanne Ruelos Diaz
- This Joy! By Shelley Johannes
Books on Joy for Adults
- Awakening Joy for Kids: A Hands-On Guide for Grown-Ups to Nourish Themselves and Raise Mindful, Happy Children by James Baraz and Michelle Lillyana
- Joy in Learning: Making it Happen in Early Childhood Classes by Leon Burton
- Joyful Learning by Alice Udvari-Solner and Paula Kluth
- Rediscover the Joy of Learning by Don A. Blackerby
- Start with Joy by Katie Egan Cunningham
- The 4 Habits of Raising Joy-filled Kids by Marcus Warner
- The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
- The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play by Laura Bland
- The Joy of Learning: Finding Flow Through Classical Education by Jason Matthew Barney
- The Joy of Teaching: Making a Difference in Student Learning by Gene E. Hall, Linda F. Quinn, and Donna M. Gollnick
- The Joyful Child: A Sourcebook of Activities and Ideas for Releasing Children’s Natural Joy by Peggy Jenkins, PhD
- The Joyful Classroom: Practical Ways to Engage and Challenge Students K-6 by Responsive Classroom