Why Joy Is The Most Important Goal Of a Teacher

Image courtesy of http://www.ccaffiliate.com


How frivolous, students don’t need ‘joy’, well, maybe they do, but they need knowledge, skills, expertise!

I agree completely with the second half of the previous statement.  I have long felt students in most fields of study these days show a surprising lack of mastery of the basic fundamental skills and knowledge in their field.  You see music students who can’t name notes, history students who can’t name nation capitols, math students who can’t reliably add and subtract (let alone multiply) two digit numbers in their heads.

How does joy factor in?

The key is to impart these core fundamentals to students, you can’t rely on teachers to teach every abstract scenario or application of a topic.  Rather, when teachers focus on fundamental core skills and knowledge within the field, students are given the tools to find the answers to specific situations on their own.

The problem arises with the concept of “teaching” anything.

I don’t believe in teaching.

Odd thing for a teacher to say, eh?

Education, and educator, come from the Latin ‘educare’ meaning ‘to guide’

One who educates, such as myself, guides one who wishes to learn to the knowledge and skills they seek.

This may sound like an exercise in semantics but it is so much more.

We do not ‘teach’, we guide, we show the knowledge and demonstrate the skills, and uncover a path that can be followed to attain them, but the action and the choice is in the hands of the learner.

So the key to education is not the knowledge, or the skills, or the teacher, or the degree, or the method, or the book, or the technology.

The key is the learners desire and dedication to learn whatever is to be learned.

Here is where joy comes in.

Where there is no joy, there is no desire to learn.

exception: fear can substitute in a pinch, one who is afraid of dying if they don’t learn to pull the emergency cord on a parachute will likely learn it, regardless of the absence of joy

Our primary job as educators, as guides, is to do all we can to help foster a joy for the subject in the learner.

I teach singing, and if I spend 45 minutes of an hours lesson experiencing laughter, curiosity and joy with the student and imparting NO KNOWLEDGE OR SKILL WHATSOEVER, the 15 minutes I DO spend imparting skill will be more effective than hours of instruction given in an environment of boredom or apathy.

I know, I’ve been on both side of the desk, as an uninspired student and an uninspiring “teacher”

I’m not saying I spend 75% of my lessons or classes cracking jokes and ignoring material.  On the contrary, my students will often tell you we work on more advanced concepts and that I demand critical thinking and personal responsibility for demonstrating skills and knowledge to a higher level than many AP courses.  However, I am able to do this by building a foundation of joy.  It is the fertile soil from which all learning springs.


And here’s the secret: Lean in close.  Even if joy doesn’t affect learning, what’s the worst that can happen if every learner you encounter remembers their time with you as a time of joy?  Teachers are one of the few professions remaining where we are paid well to do what we love all day long, let’s not forget that, and let’s let our students in on some of that goodness.  They deserve it.

Do you feel differently?  Have a core of knowledge and skill that came along with no joy whatsoever but you still learned it extremely well?  Or maybe you (gasp) agree with me?  Tell me about it in the comments:

~ by Christopher G Keene on September 3, 2012.

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