Speaking of Joy | Hooray For Monday

April 1, 2024

By Jenna Fournel, Director of Teaching and Learning

Listen to this week’s Hooray for Monday Podcast to hear members of the Inspired Teaching team talk about the moments they found unexpected Joy in the classroom.

For nearly a decade, our Speak Truth program has provided a powerful example of the Inspired Teaching Approach in practice. Over the next several weeks we’ll be looking at how giving students the reins when it comes to conversation in the classroom can boost engagement and lead to learning at a level you and your students never imagined.

I experienced my very first student-led Speak Truth discussion online four years ago, just as the pandemic began. Up until that point, these conversations had all been held in-person in schools and community spaces all over Washington, DC. As the isolation of remote learning went on and on, more and more students came to these online sessions, which were a space to connect in a rich and meaningful way with other young people.

Even though the discussions were hard-hitting, addressing topics like the need to hire more Black teachers, how COVID was exacerbating inequalities, and whether the Second Amendment should be modified, I remember being struck by the odd sense that they were also joyful. Students were engaging in rich deliberation about the pressing issues in their lives, and they were incredibly animated and interested in what each other had to say.

It makes sense that what I observed then, and continue to observe today, fits the Inspired Teaching definition of Joy:

At a Speak Truth discussion after school last week, one student leaned over to ask me, “Is this for a grade?”

I told her no and expected her to get up and leave. But she did not. Instead, she dove into the discussion with enthusiasm. Students were discussing criminal justice reform, digging into the root causes that lead people to commit crimes and reflecting on the devastating impact incarceration has on communities. You could feel both a deep concern and an electric curiosity in the room. One student commented, “I listened to many of my peers speak today and I feel like I learned a lot from their perspectives. It was awesome.”

Joy in school can look like cupcake parties and playground laughter. But it also looks like holding space for one another as students face what scares them beyond the classroom.

Poet and author Ross Gay explores this idea in his book Inciting Joy:  “What if joy, instead of refuge or relief from heartbreak, is what effloresces from us as we help each other carry our heartbreaks?”

That vision gives us an understanding of joy that encourages us to seek it out everywhere, even and especially in the midst of all that can be stressful and overwhelming in our work as educators. Instead, we can lean into the notion that holding space for the messiness, ensuring our students know they’re not alone in trying to figure it out, can be joyful.

For additional insights, resources, and information on Inspired Teaching teacher and youth programming, subscribe to the Hooray For Monday newsletter!

Hooray For Monday is an award-winning weekly publication by Center for Inspired Teaching, an independent nonprofit organization that invests in and supports teachers. Inspired Teaching provides transformative, improvisation-based professional learning for teachers that is 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our mission is to create radical change in the school experience – away from compliance and toward authentic engagement.

Listen to This Week’s Episode of Hooray For Monday

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