The Case for Joy as a Strategic Move
By Kat Powers, Director of Strategy at RePublic Schools
”Anyone want to run the culture committee?” I remember hearing my manager years ago say. There were a few smiles and nods, but mostly my co-workers were scanning the Zoom room to see who would volunteer to take on even more work during what seemed to be the hardest part of the school year; the end of quarter 2. It also did not slip by anyone that the holidays were fast approaching and for a culture committee, this meant some extra work. As eyes zeroed in on me, I volunteered, and by pleading with some peers, I managed to recruit another co-worker to join me.
The Necessity of Joy
For my 16 years in education, culture committees and ways of trying to infuse joy into staff culture have had different names, but they all have been treated as an additive, voluntary, and sometimes even a nuisance. However, I would argue that joy is foundational to our work in education. Being on a team that can celebrate, laugh, and engage authentically with one another while doing the rigorous, hard work of schools is one that has ripple effects on the scholars they work with. Rather than having joy viewed as an additive piece of our work, I deeply believe this is imperative to our work in education; not just for infusing joy with scholars, but with staff as well.
It is no surprise to any of us who have interacted with a passionate, joyful teacher, that joy in learning is contagious and that having fun with any learning material is more likely to engage scholars in their learning. But joy doesn’t just stop at content and teacher interactions, but is important in the workforce in general for overall productivity. In 2019 research was conducted on workers in a telecom facility to see the impact joy had on productivity. The study found that joyful work environments increased productivity by 13%, where workers made more calls, ultimately leading to more revenue.
How RePublic Prioritizes Joy
At a time of the year when as educators and organizational leaders we are focused on what we need to do to get our staff and scholars to make the most growth possible, it often can be a time where we forget the joy. However, incorporating joy and happiness into what we do is not only commendable but is imperative to how we move. This year at RePublic we have intentionally done this in our work with scholars through our strategic initiatives within our anti-racist framework. Whereas, at Smilow Prep, we are incorporating gamification within our lunchtime structure, and our leaders at Nashville Prep are focusing on the first 10 minutes of class being full of joy for their scholars as they enter every classroom. We also have done this structurally within our work around electives where this past week our scholars engaged in showcases, showing off the work they have done in their chosen elective courses. However, we know that joy is not just impactful for scholars but for all of us.
While I am proud of the work being done to focus on joy for our scholars at RePublic through our strategic initiative work, I know that as we move into next semester, the joy must be intentional throughout our moves with our staff as well, at all levels. This joy is a critical part of our work toward grounding schools in love, achievement, and anti-racism, but it is also a strategic move we can make at a critical time in the year. As educational leaders, finding and spreading joy in our organizations is imperative, as this impacts our success with scholars, staff, and ourselves.