Joy in education, Well-being in education

The importance of joy and pleasure in education

Today, I have been working on my PhD. And as a result of my reading and writing today, what is uppermost in my mind is the importance of pleasure – the simple pleasures of teaching, learning, writing, researching – and just living. I feel that pleasure in learning, what Simone Weil called ‘joy in the work’ is in danger of being eclipsed in all the talk of targets, improvements, standards etc.

Weil wrote that the intelligence only grows and bears fruit in joy. If she is right and I think she is, then much of what happens in schools today is not about growing intelligence. If teachers feel no joy in teaching, children are unlikely to feel much joy in learning, and if children don’t feel that joy in learning, that thrill of discovery, that freedom to try and to fail and try again, they will want to leave education as quickly as possible instead of seeing learning as a delight to pursue throughout their lives.

And today, I have felt joy. Joy in standing at my desk (I stand to work, sit down to rest); joy in reviewing the videos of my conversations with colleagues and pupils. Joy in the fact that I have the time and the energy and the mental space to write a PhD. Joy in the sunshine of a spring day in my study.

Interestingly, this joy does not preclude struggle or discomfort. I struggle to express my ideas clearly, feel anxiety about whether my work is of the required standard, get frustrated at trying to sort out a muddle of an over-long chapter into two tight, well-argued and interesting ones. There is dis-comfort in learning, too and it can sit, strangely enough, alongside the joy, even deepening it.

And what about the simple joys of standing, sitting, breathing, looking that my training as an Alexander Technique teacher has opened my eyes to? Those are there in the classroom too – but mostly, we’re too worried about targets and goals to notice. And that seems really rather sad. So now, I will end a day’s reflections with the joy of a walk in the sunshine. And, if you read this, I wish you a drop of joy too.

Weil, Simone. (1959) Reflections on the right use of school studies with a view to the love of God London: Fontana Books

 

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Character Strengths, Storytelling, Well-being in education

Character strengths in action: Using your whole body to tell a story

You can, and I do, often use simple props to tell a story. You can also use your body. A mixture of tai chi moves, with signs from British Sign Language help me, as the storyteller, to embody the story. Because I am using my whole body, I am fully present, aware of where I am, my audience and my whole self as I tell the story. It is less a cognitive and verbal activity, than a way of inhabiting the story and drawing my listeners into the story with me.

I demonstrate this method of storytelling here

A retelling of Anansi and the Pot of Wisdom, using BSL signs and tai chi moves to enhance the storytelling

As well as the character strength of #wisdom, students see many other strengths in this story, including #humour, #persistence, #teamwork and #spirituality.

Here’s a picture from Frodingham Infants that is based on the story,

Frodingham Infant School Scunthorpe UK

 

I hope you enjoy it 🙂