Get Off the Treadmill and Rediscover the Joy of Learning

1As we ring in the New Year, many of us are making the resolution to get ON the treadmill and begin to exercise to lose those unwanted pounds that have built up over the previous year(s). But I am not asking people to get ON the treadmill; rather to get OFF of it.

Over the break and because of the four-day weekend mother nature gave us in Massachusetts, I had some time to think, reflect on the school year, look at initiatives, and talk to my two high school-aged children. Once the year starts, we all become consumed with making sure kids are reading at grade level, preparing students for the MCAS exam, assessing our kids, covering all standards, looking at new math programs, closing achievement gaps, moving the needle, writing curriculum, and the list goes on and on and on. All of these are critically important and needed to make certain that kids are successful. But are they everything? What do you do when you catch yourself on that treadmill and can’t get off?

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I watched my two children prepare for the end of the term and semester exams. They are creating schedules, meeting with teachers, making up missed assignments, and studying; all of which are necessary and a part of being in high school. But as they said, “I can’t wait for the next two weeks to be over.” All of us in education, administrators, teachers, students, faculty, and staff get on that treadmill at the start of the year and just GO! I truly believe it is important to get off that treadmill and have students and teachers rediscover the Joy of Learning. Isn’t that why we went into teaching in the first place?

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A lot has been published about student agency and having students have a voice in their learning. How powerful is that! Makerspace Labs are a great way to do this and just one example of it (there are hundreds more). Laura Fleming published her 7 Attributes of a Great Makerspace. Not only do they apply to Makerspace Labs, but also to student agency, and to what we can do to help kids rediscover the Joy of Learning. They are:

  1. Inspiring
  2. Intentional
  3. Personalized
  4. Deep
  5. Differentiated
  6. Empowering
  7. Equitable

Imagine if we created lessons and opportunities that:

  • Inspired kids and the curiosity for learning 
  • Were intentional in our methods and creativity 
  • Made the content and learning experience personalized for each student 
  • Were deep and enriching 
  • Differentiated for ALL students in the class 
  • Empowered students to feel part of the learning process 
  • Created equity for all of our students

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If we could stop and get off that treadmill and do this once a month how powerful would this be for our students? And this not only extends to classroom teachers but also to administrators. Take a look at department meetings, faculty meetings, central office meetings, can we change our structure on occasion to do the same for teachers? The answer is also yes, and the benefits would be the same. What type of impact would all this have on a school’s culture and climate?

Over the next month look at one of your lessons or meetings and ask yourself what can I do differently to inspire a Joy of Learning? The results will be great.

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