Joy means students and teachers know they are valued, and feel a sense of belonging in school. It means students and teachers embrace an asset-based stance, and take pride in their work, including their work-in-progress. It means learners know their work is worthwhile. Joy can be sparked by a special event – a dance performance or soccer game or camping trip. However, joy is also an important component of the everyday experience of teaching and learning. 

Joy can happen when a student gives something a try and experiences success. Sometimes learning doesn’t come easily; sometimes students have to try and fail and try again and again as part of the learning process. As long as the focus is on process and progress, that’s joy too. 

According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile…For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”

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