Our #tiegrad cohort was honoured to welcome Dean Shareski to class last Thursday night. I have been orbiting Dean’s work on Twitter after being given his name a couple of years ago when I became a STAR Discovery Educator. When our cohort first learned that Dean would be joining us, he was identified by certain traits: “Oh, the pants guy”, “The Jumping guy?” and I said “The Joy guy”. He is recognized by the fun that he brings to the spaces he occupies. Besides the late night Twitter games, my favourite Dean lesson comes from his TEDX talk on Joy in Education.
When Dean spoke with us, three themes resonated with me after our talk: Joy, Sharing, and Learning.
This link to an article about Joy in School by Steven Wolk was shared. One thing that stood out to me was the difference between Joy and Fun. He quotes Random House Dictionary with the definition of joy being “The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something good or satisfying.” It’s easier than expected to find Joy in our schools, as simple as offering choice, freedom to explore, getting outside, and creating. I’ve learned that over time I have had to defend some of my choices as an educator: giving my students freedom to choose their own course of study in #geniushour, teaching outside, or engaging in 10 unstructured minutes of play with another class. My happiest days are the ones when I go home with a sore stomach from laughing too hard. You don’t get those moments when you stand at the front of the room reading aloud from the textbook for extended periods of time.
So, how can I make Joy a priority in my teaching? I think that it might be the same way I set every other goal: put it in writing and share it with my people. Get help on it. Commit and re-commit to doing it.
While trying to find evidence of Joy in my classroom, my one source of pride and hope is the fact that many former students return daily to my classroom. They come to share their stories, to laugh and to reconnect with old friends. In my daily practice I try to provide as much choice as I can. Choice in assignments, choice in working space, choice in topics to learn. I wish that I was given similar choices in how I assess my students’ learning.
I struggle with this. I enjoy sharing great ideas that I come across, and I re-tweet on Twitter frequently, giving credit to the original sharer or author. However, when it comes to originality, I don’t feel like I have a lot to share. I am also sometimes a little put-off by some sharing that comes across as a little aggressive. When a blog link is shared out by the author 8-12 times targeting different hashtags or chat forums, it feels a bit much. Authoring and then sharing an idea repeatedly moves from generosity to commercialism quickly.
Where’s the balance? I prefer to look at Dean’s message about sharing to be more about connecting. He called the “moral imperative”. I agree with that, it is no longer about closing your doors and keeping the best ideas for yourself. It is about sharing the good and knowing that it will grow and return to you with even more layers of icing and awesome. I will continue to share where it feels right to do so. I do not keep my ideas to myself, and part of my current job is to share how my students use technology, so it is important that I curate great resources and ideas to bring to my colleagues. So, sharing is essential, even if your primary role is connecting other peoples’ brilliance with people who are looking for those particular ideas.
One series of questions posed by Dean that had me thinking was about learning. He asked us:
- How did you learn from others?
- What did you contribute?
- What will your students say if I ask them how they think that you learn?
The first question was easily answered: everything! I learn from everyone I encounter: face to face, through Twitter, through my amazing cohort, and at conferences. I love speaking with people, hearing their ideas and feeling inspired by the great things happening. I wouldn’t be on the teaching and learning path that I am on today without the interactions and support I have had along the way.
The second question is harder. I try hard to share. I have a few colleagues that I feel like I do an “ok” job of sharing the right thing at the right time. I have had a few ideas land well on Twitter, but mostly I feel like I pass along the brilliance of others.
The final question is easily answered by my students. We talk about learning all of the time. I talk about how I learn (and how I don’t learn). I talk about my process and the resources that I need to feel successful. As part of building our community we had frank conversations about what worked for each person, and we built respect and understanding for the shared learning space. There is a sense of empathy in the room knowing that not everything is supposed to be easy, and that we are all in this together. I have shared openly when a Professional Development opportunity was disappointing (and why) and about what I do when I am “stuck” in my Masters work. I model crowd sourcing in my classroom by refusing to stay stuck by myself. I ask my students for help. I did not choose my learning project alone, my students offered direction and guidance. I also show my students how to reach out for help respectfully on Twitter. I discuss how I need to WRITE notes to learn material. I also discuss how my teaching is biased toward teaching in the style I learn best. I reflect on my learning and teaching with my students, and ask them to do the same. It’s an honest dialogue and a shared experience that opens the door to getting help that otherwise may not have happened. Truly learning together has provided all of my students the opportunity to be leaders in unexpected ways. By the end of the year, everyone is identified as an expert in some way – even me.
Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the best parts of this profession, Dean. You left our cohort inspired, recharged, and seeking Joy.