Many years ago I was consulting for the Monterey Peninsula School District and I remember once when the Superintendent walked into the room and said, “I’ve just been to every school in the district and I have two questions: Why aren’t the children singing? Why aren’t they dancing?” After which she stormed out of the room.
She had a very clear grasp of what education could be, and was frustrated by what she had seen instead. Since I’ve always been a huge fan of creativity and student expression, I shared her concerns and never forgot that incident.
I thought of her last week when visiting my wife’s school where the children were singing, dancing, laughing, and learning. The connection between learning and joy should be obvious. When kids are eager to be in school and are given the opportunity to explore rich topics in open ways, there is no limit to what they can accomplish. Our granddaughter Bianca, is in kindergarten there and, if I drop by, she is afraid I’m going to interrupt her interactions with her peers (“Grandpa, not now – I’m busy!”)
It is so easy to lose sight of the “softer side” of education in our never-ending quest for higher test scores and increased accountability, even when the work of Csikszentmilahyi and others has shown a direct connection between the flow state that comes from joy and learning.
I’d love to see every school as a place of joy – where students and teachers explore grand ideas in an environment of mutual support and respect. It can be done. I have the pleasure of seeing it almost every day.