Nothing Without Joy

Loris Malaguzzi,  pioneer of the Reggio Emilia approach,  is oft quoted asserting in early childhood settings there should be, “nothing without joy”.  

How can educators find joy in challenging times?  This year has been unbelievably challenging, upsetting, and unprecedented.  I made it my goal this year to find and cultivate joy.  

But what does joy in the classroom look like?  Who can argue, the uncontrolled uproar of children’s laughter is not contagious?  But somehow, I intuit slaphappy silliness is not an optimal state for conscious learning.

Ward & Dahlmeier (2011) write , “[joy] feels like full engagement, the peaceful delight of following an inner command, making a meaningful connection, being valued and valuing others, and feeling safe enough to  explore our inner and outer worlds”(p. 94).  So joyful learning is indicated by a hum of engagement.  

This all sounds great,  but  how do we achieve joy?  Ward continues, “Achieving joy is a process,  parts of which aren’t always pleasurable and may require considerable effort” (p. 94).   A wholistic approach to early childhood education, wherein each child is celebrated and supported as an individual, is what drew us all into this profession to begin with.  It is also precisely what promotes joy.  

Teachers too, should be recognized to be and empowered to cultivate themselves as whole individuals.  This requires a focus on teacher self-care, including a connection to nature, self-reflection, and mindfulness.  

Should you not be able to be in person with your students at this time, or should you be a parent homeschooling- please find your personal joy. Take time to explore your inner and outer worlds. Nurture yourself and to quote William Blake, “may sweet joy befall thee”!  

Ward & Dahlmeier.  (November, 2011).  Rediscovering Joyfulness.  NAEYC.

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