Suzanne van der Eijk
Does It Spark Joy?
Updated: Mar 20, 2019
We take Marie Kondo's approach to tidying up and think about how this applies to education today.
Lately, I can’t get through a day without honestly or jokingly asking myself or a colleague: Does it spark joy? Yes, I watched at least two episodes of the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Soon after I reorganized my clothes closet, kitchen, garage, office, car, pen pouch; I’ll stop there. Her approach is simple. Kondo states on her website: Our goal is to help more people tidy their spaces by choosing joy, and we are committed to developing the simplest and most effective tools to help you get there. Fantastic!
What Does This Look Like at School?
After sifting through all of my physical stuff--it’s still a work in progress--I thought What does this look like at school? To be clear, I am not referring to decluttering classrooms and faculty spaces albeit enticing. I am talking about what in our students’ learning experiences these days sparks joy? What simple tools should we provide teachers to help them spark more of it, both for the students and themselves?
I asked around and here are some of the responses I got:
Me: Hey! What sparks joy in your learning?
Student 1: When it’s related to what I am interested in
Student 2: New concepts
Student 3: It’s not on a test
Student 4: Creating something useful that I can show people
I decided to ask teachers and coaches the same thing:
Me: What in your instruction / facilitation of learning sparks joy?
Educator 1: Seeing that cycle of risk-taking and revision and that continuum of learning
Educator 2: When kids really "get" it and are excited about seeing their effort pay off
Educator 3: Helping teachers transform their teaching through more blended, student-centered approaches
Educator 4: The ability to create something that wasn't there before and see it have an impact on others' thinking and learning
I wasn’t surprised by any of the responses but I did think: So why is this important?
It’s important because we need to remind ourselves of those joyful moments in learning. As Ron Ritchhart describes in Creating Cultures of Thinking, we should reflect on our energy expenditure in daily activities. For example, a “green” opportunity would be noted as, “I came out of that activity feeling energized. For the energy I put into it, I feel I got a net gain. This was time well spent” (Ritchhart 109). I bet activities we denote as “green” are sparking joy.
The Shift in Education
In a recent trip down to Community Public Charter Middle School in Albemarle County, Virginia, one of their educators stated, "We are what we celebrate." If I applaud the number of students who pass our state tests, then this is what I celebrate. If I applaud curiosity and collaboration, then this is what I celebrate. What we celebrate communicates a lot about our beliefs and hopes for students. Fortunately, what we celebrate is changing because education is shifting.
If we continue to keep in mind what sparks joy, for students and teachers, it will lead to more authentic learning opportunities that emphasize relevant skills, allow for student voice and choice, and therefore, engagement.
I will continue to ask myself, does this spark joy? I will continue to ask students, does this spark joy?
So the next time you’re planning a lesson, preparing a coaching session, or learning something new, will you ask yourself: Does it spark joy? If not, what might you do next time to ignite a little more!?