Our framework uses principles of teaching and learning that trusts teachers’ expertise, judgment and creativity to implement uniquely given their students and circumstances. Today we feature two teachers from different sides of the globe to share how they create a joyful learning environment.
Kate Hannan, Lead Montessori Teacher at The Woods Academy in Bethesda, Maryland, USA
I find a lot of joy in being an early childhood Montessori teacher. I teach a mixed age group of three, four, and five-year-old children over the span of three years. I love watching their “light bulb” moments when they have mastered something on their own.
I implement joy by:
- fostering a sense of independence and order
- having a love and enthusiasm for life and
- by having a sense of humility
One of the ways that I implement a joyful classroom for my students is by following Maria Montessori’s philosophy of creating a consistent and prepared environment that fosters a sense of independence and order. We can maximize our learning time by creating an environment that is prepared for learning. Children experience joy when they feel a sense of consistency, independence, and order within their community. All work materials are clean and esthetically pleasing. Colored pencils, glue sticks etc. are located in the same place throughout the year and the children are free to move around the room to get the materials they need for their work. Joy happens when the children are free to make mistakes and learn from them. If a child does not know how to zip up his coat, or where to put his lunch box, he knows that he is free to ask a friend to help him at any time. Joyful environments are safe places to learn.
I have also learned that joy can be implemented into my classroom when I model for my students a love and enthusiasm for life. I know that I set the tone for the entire classroom, so I try to maintain a positive and optimistic attitude. I make sure that whatever is bothering me in my personal life does not enter the classroom. Joy breeds joy! I also make sure that everyone in my classroom (adults included) gets a chance to take “brain breaks” throughout the day. Whether it is doing a movement activity or just looking at a book in the reading corner, taking a break to regroup your mind and body is a good thing.
That being said, I have a sense of humility with regards to my teaching. My students know that I am human and have good days and bad days. Sometimes I have to remind myself that not having all the answers is just fine. I have trust and faith in myself, my philosophy, and the children. A classroom cannot be a joyful place unless teachers take care of themselves both mentally and physically. So take time this summer to experience joy for yourself. You will come back to your classroom in the fall refreshed and rejuvenated. It can only make your teaching that much better. Have a great summer!
Nariman Kanaan, Arabic Teacher, Ayoub International School, Freetown, Sierra Leone
I implement joy by:
- using activities that keep the kids engaged and the lesson moving smoothly
- involving all students and promoting a “teamwork” atmosphere
- showing them that I care for them and promoting fairness
- encouraging them, celebrating their success, thanking them for their efforts
A classroom is not a place where the teacher is a preacher and the students are the listeners. It’s about the success of the whole team (teacher & students). I used to think that being a teacher gives you the right to be the main person in the class. I thought that I only need to chew the lesson and feed my students but then I recognized that this reality is not correct and doesn’t exist anymore. We can teach our students in a joyful and happy environment by involving them in every part of the lesson.
I started to change my ways of teaching and explaining my lessons. I started to include more games into my lessons and in doing that I pushed my students to love our class sessions and wait for them everyday. They learn new things but in a joyful way. I use lots of strategies to increase fun and fairness in the classroom. For example, I put students’ names in a cup and we pick a name of the student who will answer the question – they get so excited to hear whose name will be pulled from the cup! I also divide them into groups and post words on the wall or pictures and they have to run to the word or picture that I name. And I also ask them to illustrate at the end of each session to conclude what they understood from the session, this was their favorite especially for the young students. They also like to explain the lesson (I call it “act like a teacher” which they love to pretend to be the teacher).
After trying all these strategies I realized the more you give them responsibilities the more they improve and put effort on challenging tasks because they want to show or prove to their teacher they can do it. So, I will never go back to my old ways of a classroom that doesn’t involve the students in every step of the learning environment.
Check out Nariman’s “before” and “after” photos!
How do YOU create a joyful classroom? Let us know below!
If you like these ideas, check out our free resources page and our elementary and secondary books!