All Kinds of Joy

Aug 18, 2014 | by Janice Smith


After a full year of filming at some pretty incredible schools, you can imagine we have lots of favorite videos.  But when I tell you that this week’s Video of the Week might be my all time favorite, I mean it.  Let me tell you why.

Of all the things we look for in classrooms and schools, I am open about the fact that Joy, (or J-Factor, Technique #46 in Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion) is the one I love the most.  In a school that gets incredible results a lot is demanded from both students and teachers.  Year after year commitment, hours of really hard work every day, perseverance through even the toughest challenges… the work never ends.  So in my mind, the Joy is what keeps us going, and helps us all smile and laugh along the way.

And when I talk about Joy, there’s all different kinds.  There’s the joy that comes with tangible rewards for making good choices (ice cream parties, special lunches, end of the year trips).  There’s the joy that comes with competitions or games that teachers incorporate into their lessons.  There’s joy that comes from the relationships we build with students, and the moments we have with them along the way.  And perhaps the best of all, there’s the joy that comes with clear, measurable academic growth and success.  The joy you see on a student’s face when you return a unit assessment that they earned a 93% on- 23 points growth from the last unit, completely due to all the time they’ve spent after school with you working to master the content.  The joy you see and feel when students cross the stage and prepare to head off to the college of their choice.

But the thing about Joy that causes me to spend so much time thinking about it is not just the impact it can have on school and classroom culture when present, but how great teachers actually plan and reflect constantly on the Joy, and how to create more of it.  While from the outside it can look sporadic or natural, it is most likely a product of lots of thought, planning and collaboration between staff members to create those moments.  Reflection on moment’s past, time spent observing others who do this well, and sometimes detailed planning to make a great incentive system really work.

This clip in particular was captured on the first day of school last year at Henderson Collegiate.  We actually blogged about it back in September, but since we’ve had lots of new folks join us since, we wanted to spend a little more time on it.  Henderson Collegiate is a high-performing No-Excuse model school that has built a school culture so strong you can feel it the moment you walk through the doors.  On the first day before students head to their first classes, each grade has ‘Pride Time’, spent on setting the tone for the year ahead.  We happened to have two cameras rolling in different locations, so were able to capture this chant challenge. Take a look, and then read on for what we love the most about it.

Context… Where we start is with the 7th graders during their Pride Time.  From down the hall they hear the 6th graders chanting, and here you see how they respond and what happens next.

Why We Love It So Much…

  • The way you can see the joy on students’ faces.  Okay, we’re filming from behind… but even from the back of the room you can see and feel the buzz between the students as they get excited to do their Pride’s chant.  I often think the best way to observe for joy in a classroom is just by watching the students.
  • The first time around the teachers lead it.  The thing about joyful moments like these is they have to be executed in a way that allows students to return back to the task at hand quickly, doesn’t lead to sloppiness.  With teachers it leading the first time around, they are able to set the tone.  But very soon after they hand it off to the students to lead.
  • Coach Cirino.  Blue/green shirt with tie.  Especially starting at :38.  The power of non-verbals in building the excitement and encouraging students to rise to the challenge.
  • Their ability to reset.  Ms. Cirino (green shirt) is great at building the joy, encouraging the joy, and then quickly getting students to reset and be sharp throughout.
  • The content of the chant.  When designing and teaching chants to students (a quick and easy way to build some joy) the content could really cover anything.  The fact that what students chant about most often at Henderson Collegiate is the year they’re going to college is a pretty great reminder of what everything they do is working towards.
  • This joyful moment took 2:00 minutes of their time.  These moments don’t have to take long, but do need to be often in order to build a culture like the one they have created at Henderson Collegiate.
    • NOTE– While this instance took only 2:00, we don’t want to gloss over the incredible amount of time they invest regularly in teaching the chants, front loading expectations while chanting, the way they capitalize on teachable moments in order to reinforce these expectations, and all the other things that go into making something like this happen in under 2 minutes.  Pretty big investment?  Yup.  And we think it’s 100% worth it in order to create a place that students not only look forward to going to every day, but is also someplace (and something) that you take pride in.
  • This moment aside, we love the message it sends that the very first activity on the first day of school is time spent with the entire Pride in one room, with all their teachers.  Our choices send messages, and I love the message this sends to students about what’s important.

Things to Think About…

  • Where in your classroom do students experience the most joy?
  • Where are the times of day where it is lacking the most?
  • What are some quick additions you can make to your daily routine to integrate more joyful moments?
  • On a larger scale (think Unit or Quarterly), where can you build in more opportunities for joy?

Looking for more examples of Joy?  Head to the library and search for the tag ‘Joy’- we’ve got lots more where this one came from!

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