Joy is an Intervention


It’s such a simple phrase but I find it so powerful. Joy is an intervention. It’s so freeing. My friend, Dr. Mary Howard, wrote these words in a facebook post the other day. They flipped my world upside down.

I always believed that joyful learning is a key to increased learning but I never thought of it as an intervention. How do I reach my hardest to reach students? One pathway is joy. How do I help my students who struggle the most? One pathway is joy. It makes so much sense.

For some of my students, every aspect of school is a struggle. They are facing mountains that I cannot see and have a hard time even imagining. There are times I’m sure, that as a teacher, I have became part of the mountain to these students. I let others, who reside well outside my classroom, make the decisions that drive my actions and that influence my words.

When I do, I become part of the mountain, instead of a guide, or dare I say a partner, to help my student up this mountain she is facing.

I am fortunate. My daughter is a reader. Just now, as I type this I still have sweat on my brow from running the two blocks to her school because she forgot her book. She told me on the way home from dance, that she is praying that her book is in her backpack. It wasn’t. And so I ran up and knocked on doors until a kind janitor let me in and opened her classroom so I could get my reader her book.

My daughter doesn’t read because she is a good decoder. She doesn’t read to recieve points. She doesn’t read because she has a reading log to fill out. She doesn’t read to be recognized. She reads because she finds tremendous joy in it and always has.

We are a fortunate family. We are book-rich. My daughter always had access to books that she could read, that she could love, that she could find joy in.

I understand that my daughter is fortunate. When it comes to reading, she has no mountains. Her landscape is as flat as Kansas. She has guides and partners to navigate her reading life. It’s been an easy journey.

When I think of my daughter and then I think of my students who struggle, I can’t help to think about Dr. Mary’s words, “Joy is an intervention.” My daughter’s reading life is pure joy, for many of my students reading is anything but joy. Maybe our first questions shouldn’t be focused around reading gaps, reading levels, or reading skills. Maybe our first question should focus on joy. How can we increase this child’s reading joy? Maybe it’s joy that can turn those mountains into mole hills.

I must add, I don’t believe that joy is only an intervention for reading. Perhaps it’s the intervention we all could use, regardless of the subject we teach. Our goal isn’t to get our students to read or make art or sing, it’s to get our students to love to read and love to create and love singing.

Joy is an intervention. Let’s use it. Let’s find it.

Let’s create it. I believe that with it, our students can soar.


Trevor (@trevorabryan)

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