Education’s Dysfunctional Relationship with Happiness

This post was last updated on 4 months ago at 4 months ago

If you asked parents “What is it that you want for your kids?” You’d have an overwhelmingly common response of: “I just want them to be happy?” While they may add other things like health, a job they love and good relationships, happiness would top that list and likely cover all those other things as well. So if happiness is what most parents want for their kids, why are schools so afraid to use the word or actually teach happiness?

Certainly there is a legacy that still believes that happiness, fun, play and joy are not compatible with all mighty goal of academic rigour. While most educators may not be this explicit in stating this, it remains an unspoken belief. Whenever children are laughing, having fun, playing its often seen as “childish”. We might tolerate it but we also might be quick to transition to more serious work. While I’m generalizing here, my guess is that you can place this in a specific context in your world. As Jal Mehta says:

People have a lot of false dichotomies in their heads, like either they learn the content

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Delight 9: Savouring words

I started my delight project on March 5th. I’ve yet to decide if it was the absolute worst timing or perhaps the absolute best. At the time the Coronavirus was somebody else’s issue. Soon after I started, things escalated quickly and today, of course, we’re facing serious things that makes delight hard to find. No matter the timing of this, I’m forging ahead.

While words and language have always mattered, I feel as information and ideas are so freely accessible and shared, it may be more important than ever to be clear about what we mean.

You can read a couple of posts of mine on language and words. As you can see, I can get worked up about the improper use of words. Another example of this is the work and thinking I’ve done around joy. Often people come up to me after I present and swap out the words “fun” and “happy” for joy. While I’m not opposed to having fun and being happy, that’s not really what I mean when I talk about joy. The definition I most often use is around the expression of well-being. Being well and in a good place is closely … Read the rest

Delight 4: Her Little Voice

The easy thing about my Delight Project is that I have the two cutest grandchildren ever. I could simply share a video or picture of them and know that it brings me delight and likely you too. The challenge is I have to be specific which makes it a bit harder. But make no mistake, I will be sharing my delights that feature my two babies.

Listening to toddlers grow their vocabulary might be the most precious thing I love about children. Mispronouncing words and improper grammar are cute. It’s always strange to think of the things that children do and know that we would be appalled or just feel sad for adults who portray these traits. Yet with children, observing this childish behaviour is truly delightful.

Harriet’s voice is enchanting. When she plays she morphs in and out of characters at a moment’s notice. From “I’m the Momma” to “Now I’m Peppa” to “Ina be Hay-it” (I’m going to be Harriet), she changes her voice and begins to use the posture and voice of her character. This soft voice of the Momma is my favourite. It’s soothing, comforting and slightly condescending. It’s the best. In this clip, she puts … Read the rest

The Delight Project

This post was last updated on 6 months ago at 6 months ago

My journey as an educator and human has always been centred around joy, even when I didn’t realize it. The more I reflect, the easier it becomes to see. Admittedly in my early years of teaching, I didn’t seem to have the time to reflect both and articulate that I was always seeking joy. Joy was somewhat of the antithesis to the prevailing narrative of education which was and perhaps still is focused on achievement and results.  Joy is an afterthought in many instances.


So I wrote a book. I shared those ideas in presentations and talks. Occasionally I think, “Well, you’ve exhausted that topic, maybe focus on something else.” But then I remember it’s not a trend, it’s a life long pursuit that requires our attention and effort. It’s also one of those things I have to practice daily. I appreciate that I can’t avoid thinking about and working towards joy. I look at the things I read and notice that in some form or another they support that pursuit. 


One such book is Ross Gay’s Book of Delights. It’s one man’s quest to … Read the rest

Be Less Helpful or Be More Grandparent

Dan Meyer talked about “being less helpful” in his 2010 Ted Talk and has resonated with many since. Essentially the idea of allowing students to learn and struggle within interesting, useful problems. On the surface, this sounds simple but the reality is most of us, whether we’re teachers or parents or leaders of any kind often resort to providing answers, or highly structured supports in order to see children and learners succeed. In many respects, this is the greatest challenge we face as educators. 


While I don’t think I’ve ever written about it here (confession: I honestly have written much about anything lately) becoming a grandfather has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I’ve said many times since that if you can bypass the children part and go right to grandparenting, I would highly recommend that! While the benefits are many, one of them is that I have fresh eyes when it comes to how humans learn. As a parent, I probably missed much of this because of the overwhelming feeling of responsibility you have. As a grandparent, I reap all the benefits of parenting but very few of the challenges. 

This quote by Urie … Read the rest