by Sheilah Jefferson-Isaac (Twitter: @docsheilah), Assistant Principal, 2015 National School of Character, Northern Parkway School

#Learningisjoyful is a hashtag that I often use when tweeting however I have used the phrase “Learning is Joyful” to describe my educational philosophy for a number of years.  To be clear joy for me does not necessarily equal fun and games.  It is more of an intrinsic feeling that you achieve when you are passionate about learning something and you are involved in the learning process.  Joyful learning experiences can involve games and play but working diligently to solve a problem…and solving it can also evoke feelings of celebration and satisfaction.  Joyful learning experiences are inherently tied to character education.  When you are learning in an environment that supports you, values you, connects with you, respects you, and cares about you…#learningisjoyful.  So how does the hashtag #learningisjoyful connect with my experiences at the 2015 National Forum on Character Education held in Atlanta, Georgia (October 15-18,2015).  Take a look:

Breakout Session 1

“I have this tech tool…now what do I do with it?” was a workshop facilitated by Lisa Stutts (@Lisa_Stutts) and myself.   We took the attendees through our school’s character education journey  (see buncee) with a particular focus on using Twitter to connect with authors that support character education in their books (nerdybookclub (@nerdybookclub) | Twitter).  We know that when children are given opportunities to read independently and read books that matter to them, reading for and with joy develops.  Artist Pharrell Williams reinforces this with his new book Happy and #readhappy Video.  

Breakout Session 2

The second session I attended was “The MIndset Revolution: Promoting academic excellence, self-discipline & accountability” facilitated by Scott Schickler (7 Mindsets) One particular mindset that he shared was Mindset #2 -Passion First.  Scott reminded us that “We all have things we enjoy doing.  When you like doings something, you do more of it, even in your free time”   One of the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education is “The school fosters students’ self motivation”.  Imagine having a mindset of Passions First to support students’ self motivation.  I can envision lots of joyful learning experiences not just for students but entire school communities. 

Breakout Session 3

The “Happy Caveman” session facilitated by Joe Beckman (@Joe_Beckman) was the embodiment of a joyful learning experience. Through ice breakers, connections, reflections and fun, Jon enthusiastically reminded us that “Everyone is on this planet for a reason”.  Joe has dedicated his life to helping young people discover this reason so that they can live a life centered on self-confidence, purpose, leadership and service to others (Joe | Beckman).  He reminded educators that we are responsible for creating the conditions that empower students to care for themselves and for each other and these opportunities can take as little as 3-5 minutes a day.  

The question remains….Do you remember all of the content that all of your teachers taught you during your time in school or do you remember the feelings and connections that were made via joyful learning experiences?  We often share that connections and engagement matter as much or more than the academic content.  If you believe this to be true, remember that character education is not a product but a process and to reach the hearts of children you must remember that #learningisjoyful and it is our responsibility to create joyful learning experiences.