Surprised by Joy

We’ve reached the mid point of October.  Noteworthy news from the past two weeks: 

  • Our Grade 8 and 9 Mini School students went to Bamfield;
  • Ms. Heppner, Constable Neufeld and twelve students are off to Albertville and Paris for 14 days;
  • Literacy Leadership 12 students have started visiting our Family Elementary Schools where they are helping primary students with their reading;
  • A great collaborative morning in which staff discussed grading practices;
  • Senior Girls Volleyball Team placed second in their pool at the Ogopogo Tournament in Kelowna;
  • 130 students attended the Vancouver Film Festival’s screening of “Kabuli Kid”;
  • Over 1200 socks have been donated in our “Sock Wars”;
  • Grade 12 student, Jonathan Senn, was awarded the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Medal;
  • Kyle Jacques will be representing SET BC as a student reporter at the Olympic Games and he has been chosen to go to Ottawa for a week with Encounters with Canada.  Congratulations Kyle!   

In his online essay, “A Vision of Students Today (& What Teacher Must Do), Michael Wesch, through the retelling of a story, differentiates between learning and school:   

Last year’s U.S. Professor of the Year, Chris Sorensen, began his acceptance speech by announcing, “I hate school.”  The crowd, made up largely of other outstanding faculty, overwhelmingly agreed.  And yet he went on to speak with passionate conviction about his love of learning and the desire to spread that love.  And there’s the rub.  We love learning.  We hate school.  What’s worse is that many of us hate school because we love learning. 

Sorensen’s comments lead us to ask some fundamental questions: What is the purpose of school? What dispositions about learning, reading, school, the world, and the self do we want to cultivate? Ask any adolescent why they go to school. You will hear nothing about joy. 

Many of our greatest joys in life are related to our learning, but, unfortunately, most of that learning takes place outside of school. Steven Wolk in his article, “Joy in School,” writes of how we can put more joy into the experience of going to school and get more joy out of working inside school by focusing on several essentials. Help students find pleasure in learning by giving them the freedom to explore what they love. Give students some choice in how they will go about their learning and how they will demonstrate their knowledge. Allow students to create original work, and show off that work. Give students and teachers time to tinker. Make school spaces inviting. Get students—and teachers—outside. Read good books. Offer more classes in gym and in the arts. Use more authentic assessments and student self-assessments. Get teachers, students, and administrators together from time to time to have some fun.

Joy in School – Steven Wolk 

Towards the end of his article, Wolk draws attention to a recent visit he made to a school: 

I was standing in the hallway talking to a teacher when a tall 8th grade boy from another classroom exuberantly walked up to that teacher. They began some good-natured ribbing. Back and forth it went for a few minutes with smiles and laughter. What was this about? The teacher-student basketball game held earlier that week. Here were two people—an 8th grader and his teacher—having a joyous good time. 

Walk in the JO hallways and you will see students joking with Mr. Harapnuick who deigns to don his Flames jersey; come midway down the first floor and watch Mr. Wiseman exchange jokes on the fly as a student is running to class (trying to beat the bell); come up to the second floor and listen to the counsellors have good humored fun with students; head to Mr. Sommerfeld’s class and listen to him kibitz with his senior biology students. 

What we have here is special – a connectivity that speaks to a learning which has at its core a sense of belonging.  We are learning, we are having fun and, to borrow from C.S. Lewis, we are “surprised by joy” everyday. 

I hope you all had a nice weekend – see you tomorrow.