The Joyful Classroom: 5 Entry Points to Foster and Cultivate Joy

“What is learning if not with Joy?”

As a parent and an educator I strive to invite joy into my classroom and my home everyday. Joy is much more than happiness. Joy is a process in and of itself where we creatively learn to embrace all our emotions including disappointment and failure.

Here I offer 5 entry points based upon the influential work of Marta Davidovich Ockuly (2015) and Catherine Camden-Pratt (2008), where we may foster and cultivate JOY in our own lives and the lives of those we influence.

1. Focus on process instead of product

In the real-world it’s about Problem-Solving on the fly. How can we foster this skill in our students if we only value the final result of their work, like exams or final artifacts? Instead we find ways to measure engagement rather than final products (Ockuly, 2015). Placing value on the process of how we get somewhere cultivates a different level of learning because it involves reflection. Zull (2002) states that allowing students to reflect upon their learning allows complexity to enter our learning.

2. Celebrate the small stuff

If we allow our students to make personal meaning out of their education we cultivate a sense of internal locus of control (Carl Rogers, 1961). Learning needs to be owned in order to be meaningful, effective and sustained over time.

I invite you to watch the movie Freedom Writers. This movie is a significant statement in how we may invite our students into reflection and also celebrate where they find themselves in this moment.

3. Person-centered approach to educating and learning

Personal education is the only education. A classroom climate offering psychological safety to all students is paramount. Permitting freedom to explore subject matter within unit constraints fosters internal locus of control. What is meaningful to me within this particular unit right now and why? This is a great place to start a personal reflection journal entry.

4. Embrace risk-taking in ourselves and our students

Risk taking in a safe classroom environment develops and strengthens trust, which deepens student engagement, learning and how a student participates in the class. Failing forward, is a descriptive term used by creativity specialist Marta Davidovich Ockuly (2015). Training our kids to thrive in this world, outside of school, includes learning to fail. I equate it to teaching my toddler that No is an answer that needs to be accepted sometimes.

Innovation does not just happen. Innovation is fueled by failure. Allowing failure in the classroom is an important step toward inviting further cultivation of imagination and movement into something new. Without failure we cannot expand the girth of our learning. Failure is a passionate, strong teacher.

5. Cultivate creativity capacity within ourselves and our students

I cannot take my students where I have not already been. Understanding that embodied teaching is in and of itself a positive model for learning (Camden-Pratt, 2008). This is where both the student and teacher place themselves at the centre of their own learning. Creative confidence is gained through doing, not thinking about doing. Camden Pratt (2008) states:

I take my own learning risks alongside the students, sharing and celebrating my learning edges. My willingness to do this, and my ongoing congruence in working with the majority of unit activities at the same time as the students, develops student trust in the work we are doing” (pg. 9).


In conclusion, I invite us all to reflect upon the educators or mentors that had a positive influence in our lives. What was it about these people that inspired us? What qualities did they possess? And if called to, How might we step into embodying these qualities for ourselves today?

I strive to invite joy into my classroom and my home everyday

In was inspired to write this article as a result of reading the work of my dear friend and positive creative influencer, Marta Davidovich Ockuly. Marta is completing her PhD. through Saybrook University in California. Marta specializes in creativity and in my opinion, her views are about to change how our world perceives and embodies imagination, creativity and learning!

One Comment

  1. Look at you! I love this article…and I love you! Awesome sharing of so many important points. Thanks for engaging me in your powerful process!!!

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