What Makes a Difference?

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What brought JOY to your learning when you were a student?

My wife Charity has returned to school this year seeking her British Columbia Teachers Certificate through Simon Fraser University PDP. Though her Child Studies degree from Concordia, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Simon Fraser University, four years of IB (PYP) teaching experience, level three training in PYP and being a workshop leader in inquiry were sufficient for international schools, B.C. requires her to take one more step.

As her cohort familiarized themselves with one another, Charity and her colleague were tasked with creating an ice-breaker activity for the teachers in training. I put out for some ideas on Twitter and received some gems but she chose another angle. Rather than the random accumulation of personal experiences and “favourites” she decided to explore what brought joy to those in her cohort when they were students. The results actually surprised me.

She began the exercise with a 3 minute clip from the beginning of Dean Shareski’s TEDxWestVancouverED talk on Whatever Happened to Joy in Education? This clip showed students enthusiastically engaged in their learning through a variety of interesting activities and Dean explaining the importance of such learning.

From there, the cohort was going to create a Padlet brainstorm page of the memories that brought them JOY as students. Unfortunately, the technology didn’t work and she relied on Post-It Notes; every inquiry teacher’s best friend. The students wrote a variety of different ideas that impacted their joy of learning and these were transferred to the Padlet wall. What I personally love about Padlet, is that you have real-time brainstorming where all students are sharing their ideas at the same time – everyone is engaged. Along with that, students may be inspired by other “stickies” that drive them deeper into their ideas. This is the Padlet from Charity and her colleague’s activity:

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There were a number of interesting memories being shared that many of us can connect to, but Charity wanted to see if there was a pattern. To do this she copied the words into a Wordle and joy for these student teachers was this:

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At the end of the day, it was the teacher who had the power to bring them joy in learning. As we begin a new school year it is important to remember that what we do as educators matters. We have the power to create powerful memories for students, infuse a love for life-long learning, develop meaningful skills they will use later in life, inspire curiosity that may drive students into future careers and encourage the development of resiliency, character and upstanding behaviour. We have the best job in the world and seeing the results of Charity’s activity reaffirmed the impact we have. In closing, I would encourage an ongoing reflection:

What brought you JOY in education? What are you doing to bring JOY to your students now?

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