As educators, we should ask ourselves more often whether children would come to school every day if school were optional. If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is no. The reason is simple: Too many kids find school boring.
At Success Academy, we believe deeply in creating a culture of rigor and joy. Having high academic expectations and making learning incredibly engaging are central to our mission of providing a high-quality education. Without joy, our scholars would simply not be motivated to learn or do their best. The same is true of the adults who work in our schools.
If you walk into a Success Academy school right now, you will find countless examples of students and staff having fun together. You will also hear about effort celebrations that recognize students for their hard work by ratcheting up the joy factor. Below is a list of five moments when our scholars celebrated success and found joy in learning.
Hallway Bowling. No bowling balls? No problem. In this celebration, our scholars and teachers turn the school’s hallway into a bowling lane and themselves into bowling balls. The two teams literally go head to head. Lying flat on a set of wheels, a teacher and a student will be pushed by their teammates head-first into a set of bowling pins at one end of the hallway. The team that knocks down the most pins is declared the winner.
Chair Races. The scholars at SA Harlem 5 are not old enough to drive, but they can still pretend to be racecar drivers. Recently, principal Khari Shabazz turned the school’s hallway into something of a speed track and challenged his elementary scholars to a race – using office chairs. The scholars gathered in the hallway and cheered them on. Mr. Shabazz lost the race as one of his students beat him to the finish line.
Recess Challenge. Megan Gerrity, an elementary science teacher at SA Upper West, recently taught her scholars about simple machines. Using “imagination blocks,” her students decided to create different classes of levers (simple machines) during recess. “They did this entirely on their own,” she said. “They were very proud to show me their work and explain where the effort, fulcrum, and load are located on their levers.”
Celebrating Excellence: At the end of every math period, teachers and scholars celebrate organized and beautiful math work. The winner is named “Organized Work All-Star.” The winners receive a certificate, cheers, and praise from their classmates, and we even blow up their work into a full-sized poster and hang it in the hallway. This special celebration of great thinking and great work makes scholars so proud!
Pie-Eating Contest. Nothing brightens up the day better than pie. That’s why pie-eating contests are a popular celebration at several schools. In these celebrations, scholars take a break from academics to get a little messy in a fun competition to see who will be the first to finish a pie. The only rule is that you can’t use your hands. Teachers often join in the fun.
Whether it’s a principal racing his students in the hallway, students celebrating the beautiful math work of their peers, or a teacher challenging her students in a pie-eating contest, joy in our schools comes in many forms and is present every day. Joy is part of our culture, and our kids love learning. It is one of the biggest reasons scholars come to school every day. Check out more photos of joy in our schools here.