classroom environment · collecting · community · COVID-19 · engagement · flexible seating · independent writing · motivation

Three Ways to Find Joy & Keep Writing

We are now entering week seven in our school district. At the start of the year, there was much to think about and much to worry about. 

There were many questions to be answered and all of them seemed continuously uncertain. “We don’t know that yet” or “I’m not sure” were phrases that often seemed to echo throughout the school building. Fear seemed to be the last thing on my mind, not because I lacked the ability to recognize the reality of the launch into the start of a school year during a pandemic, but because there seemed to be little time for fear or worry. We had too much to think through and prepare. Maybe it was best that way. We were set to start in person and there was no turning back. 

In what felt like a flash, we prepared. We set up and planned for in person, virtual, and at home learning, a cross between in person and virtual learning. When students finally arrived, they brought with them a strange feeling. It wasn’t the oddity of the masks that covered their possible smiles, we learned to smile with our eyes. It wasn’t the distance we all had to keep from each other. We learned to come close at a distance, as strange as that may sound. There was an odd and completely unexpected feeling of… joy.

I thought about the level of caution and precautions required for our new school year. Carefully, I took purposeful time to walk students through the day and did my best to have them understand why the new procedures are so important. In the process, the worry began to creep back into my mind. I felt a strange mixture of feelings that did not go hand and hand―a strange feeling of guilt. I felt guilt for being back in the classroom, when so many could not be back in their classrooms, when so many had been sick or worse. For a while, the guilt prevented me from seeing good things happening in the classroom. My students adjusted to the different, before I adjusted. There were times I noticed beautiful things. Beautiful ways we made things work, and students seemed to adjust to the new ways of… well, almost everything. Not me. It took weeks for me to finally understand that it was okay to feel joy again. 

Where there is joy, we have the ability to build fluency.

Three Ways to Find Joy and Keep Writing:

  1. Find joy in new places to write. Before we leave our seat, we sanitize our hands.
  • Writing in the dark with book lights
  • Writing behind a privacy wall towers
  • Under a fabric fort
  1. Find joy in spreading out throughout the room, throughout the playground, or anywhere students find places of comfort. 
  1. Find joy creating new memories. New memories are opportunities for new seed stories. Taking a mask break outdoors and at a distance is good, but teaching kids to breathe deeply is important. We practice breathing deep and blowing out long with bubbles. The joy of these, our first bubble breaks, were filled with smiles and laughter. For some of my students, blowing bubbles was a first time experience. 

Everything we do matters, so we must hold on to what we know is good for students. It is okay to find joy in these strange times, more importantly, it is important to make space for joy in a writing workshop and step into joy with purpose.

9 thoughts on “Three Ways to Find Joy & Keep Writing

  1. Thank you for this emphasis on joy! We must insist that education remain joyful – and you have given so many precious ideas. I loved this phrase, “we learned to smile with our eyes” – and think it would be a beautiful opening line to a poem about these times, yes? I love imagining your students in dark spaces with book lights on … that sounds magical!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Maureen. Glancing around the room to notice all of the book lights shining a light on books or writing is definitely something that deserves a pause. We love to flip on the standing lamps and LED twinkle lights, too. I love your idea about the poem. It hadn’t crossed my mind. Thank you for sparking that idea.


  2. In talking with teachers, I think it’s evident that joy is missing in a lot of places right now. There is so much to think about that it’s hard to be joyful. Yet, we must. And, as you showed us, the kids will always show us the way.

    Thanks for sharing this honest reflection into your classroom community with us. It’s lovely to witness the joy – from afar – with your students.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Each day, I realize how important it is for us all to make space for joy in the classroom. It can be easy to miss, especially during this strange time of ours. What a good thing it is to know that our kids will find ways to shine a little light on joy when it appears. And isn’t that something to smile about.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I related to the line “My students adjusted to the different, before I adjusted.” I’ve been so pleased so far with how our kids are staying masked. If I stray out of my distance into her space, my student pulls up her mask without any prompting. And we are finding so much joy in the things we always loved, read aloud, writing together, decorating journals. I need to get some bubbles, though. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so wonderful to hear! Thank you for sharing your own experience. I can’t begin to tell you what it felt like to hear the collective laughter those bubbles caused. That sound was a breath of fresh air. Yes, I completely recommend bubbles for your students.


  4. Thnaks for your simple joyful ideas. I feel more relaxed having read and seen pictures of your joyful writing class. Your students are so lucky to have you as their writing teacher. I’m lucky to have joining this writng communities to meet you here. I have a strong urge to get me some bubbles now, too!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Sally. Yes, I completely recommend that you get some bubbles for your class… it’s a little bit of soapy joy in a bottle : )


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