I have a truly amazing colleague, one who is thoughtful and sends me all kinds of suggestions for finding joy. Recently she sent me this article. In essence it outlines how joy and hassle interact, and the importance of having someone to cheer you through the implementation phase and on into the joy. This is a reproduction of one of the graphics she used, and it pretty much sums it up; right past the point where someone is lying in a puddle of their own tears about ready to give up, is a green dot. A cheerleader, a friend, a coach, whatever you want to call that cute little smiling dot!
This article truly resonated with me. I am an educational technology facilitator, mostly I just call myself a coach, and to me that means being the green dot. I haven’t been amazing as a coach (see this post about being judgemental, and this post about being bad at relationships), but I feel like this is a role I can get behind. Not only do I think that coaches need to see themselves as the green dot, but also teachers.
There are so many articles, and posts, and tweets, and etc., about the need for students to own their learning right now, but that is so much easier said than done in the classroom. Even if there weren’t grading guidelines and standardized tests, there would be students who aren’t sure how to own their learning. Students who, honestly, don’t know where to start, because what I’ve noticed is they all start with a Google image search! They do not know HOW to find joy in learning. Teachers are busy trying to get them to pass, or make adequate yearly progress, and joy of learning might not be top of the list of classroom priorities. I argue that it should be the top priority. Life is full of hassle, even for children, but if there is someone on the other side of the hassle cheering and rooting and giving high fives, then joy can be found. Our society is in need of a generation of citizens that finds joy in being a learner and constructing knowledge to solve a problem.
Here are three ideas I have seen in classrooms that you can implement right now to become the green dot for your students and instill in them the joy of learning.
- Tie learning to future goals.
In a third grade classroom at the beginning of the year, the teacher asks the students to draw a picture of themselves in thirty years. This picture becomes the cover of every notebook, their profile picture online, and the answer to every “why do I need to know this?” Yes, these goals may change, but at least for right now, there is a very clear reason for learning. The teacher becomes the cheerleader for something besides passing the test, and the students find joy in knowing that their work will directly impact their future.
- Tie choices to current goals.
In a Kindergarten classroom the teacher shares beginning of the year assessment data with her students, and asks them to create a learning goal. Some are tied to data (learn all my letter sounds), some are a little broader (make a movie on the iPad), but all of them are chosen by the student – all doable goals are honored. When station time comes, the students are reminded of their goal, and have choice in their stations to give them the practice in choosing a station that will help further them along. They are constructing their learning pathway with their goal in mind. The teacher knows that the stations she has set up are beneficial no matter what, so cheering them on is easy. The students reflect on their goals and their choices. There is a bulletin board with each child’s “football player” displayed. When student and teacher think that the progress has been made, the player gets to move down the field. The students have even begun to chart their progress with notes on their players, i.e. “this week I learned the sounds of a, m, and b.” Guess what? There is no penalty for dancing when their player reaches the end zone!
- Let students choose what they learn.
This has so many names, 20% time, Google time, passion project… whatever you call it, there is nothing more important than allowing student to just learn because they want to. I know a fifth grade teacher who uses the morning time as passion project time. Her students come in, and spend the start of their day learning something that they want to learn. There is a brief sharing session, that is always packed with students who want to tell everyone about the most wonderful thing that has ever been ever, and then the day is off. I think I need to start my day this way!
As I shift in my own practice to help the teachers I work with find joy in the hassle of the classroom, so too do I want them to do the same for their students. In doing so, they may find that their students also become green dots for others, and there truly cannot be enough green dots in the world!
Have you had a green dot experience? I’d love to hear it! You can find me at krystalweiss.com!