Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Joy to the World Project

My juniors finished the book I assigned to them, they took the test on it, and this week they debate on controversial topics from the text. So as not to punish them for finishing everything we "needed" to accomplish before winter break, I decided to do something fun for the seven days before break. Enter "Joy to the World Project." At first, I called it the happy project, then I wanted a more holiday-ish ring to it, so I called it the joy project. My co-teacher suggested I dub it, "Joy to the World Project." That has the best jingle bell ring to it of all, so there you have it.

Anyway, what is this project? Well, it's two-fold.

Part one of the project requires students to keep a journal for at least seven days and focus on positivity for all of the entries. I gave them a fairly long list of prompts to use for inspiration. If you would like to use any of the prompts, here is the list I provided to the students:

o   Make a list of all of your accomplishments/successes for the day (aced a test, woke up on time, actually did your hair that morning, made someone laugh until they cried)
o   Write a list of everything that you currently love (snack, song, style, TV show, class, color, etc.)
o   Focus on narrating one event that happened and brought you great joy
o   Write about your plans to bring joy to the actual world (not just our corner of it).
o   Find a quotation that makes you happy and write about it!
o   Write about someone whom you love, someone who brings you great joy.
o   Write about all of the places to which you would love to travel and why
o   Talk about tradition of which you are a part
o   Write about your qualities that make you who you are, qualities of which you are proud! (It’s okay to pat yourself on the back sometimes, you know.)
o   Create a bucket list 
o   Freewrite about what joy/happiness means to you

 Part two of the project requires students to achieve the following goal: present the class with something (of your own creation--so, not just a video of someone else's stuff) that spreads joy to the world, even if it's our tiny corner of it. Some students want to bake things. Some students are dancing for the class. One student is in all-state orchestra (first chair!) and plans to play something for us. Some students seem excited to bring in something for the class to do for someone else (ex: wounded warrior) that will spread joy after I suggested taking a different approach to the project. I told them about this sweet, little girl who is asking for a lifetime of Christmas cards in the year or less that she has left to live.

With all of the negativity in the media, I want my students to focus on the positivity that they can share with the world. There is no shame in being angry over injustices or heartbroken over a loved one's death. However, if we can carve just a fraction out of our days to consider nothing other than what brings us great joy, then maybe the burden of that anger, or that heartbreak, or that pervasive negativity becomes a little lighter for us to carry.

When people find out how riddled with health problems I really am, I think they fall somewhere on the spectrum of disbelief. Either they think, "no, she cannot really feel that sick," or say, "how do you do it?" Admittedly, I sometimes have a pity party for one because I know how poisonous bottling up emotions can be, but I allow myself to feel all the feelings and then allow those feelings to pass. I have to. There is too much good in my life to focus on the negative for too long. Plus, how beneficial is that negativity? Not at all. Instead, I choose to remind myself of the following: I have a funny, considerate husband (despite some of his obnoxious, though endearing, qualities); witty, thoughtful students; caring, supportive family; and kind friends (many of whom are colleagues).

Also, I have a dress made of sweatshirt material, and I wore it on a Monday. I tell you what. Nothing makes a week start off better than a comfortable outfit. Like how I transitioned there? I thought you might. I thought I might have also lost you amongst ALL OF THE WORDS. SO MANY WORDS. I think they proved their worth though. I hope. Just like this dress did today.

 The Look:
Dress: Old Navy (over a year ago)
Sweatshirt thing: Gap Outlet ($11, woot woot)
Scarf: Crocheted by my momma
Boots: Etienne Aigner
(Note: I am wearing tights; the tights are gray.)


  1. That is an awesome project. It definitely made me stop and think about good things on a day when I'm very wrapped up in the heartbreak of my cousins, whose adopted daughter is STILL in Congo,. She is one of hundreds of legally adopted children who are waiting on the government to issue their exit papers. They have been waiting for months. My cousins adoption went through last year around this time. They named her at Christmas last year. Now it's another Christmas and she's still over there. Thanks for helping take my mind off that for a moment. :-) You've already done a little part spreading some joy.

  2. I just love you. Is that weird to say to a stranger on the internet? Maybe. But I want to go back to high school just so I can have you as a teacher. I hope these kids know how lucky they are to have you!

  3. This is just a great project idea, especially around the holidays. I think finding ways to keep the positives in mind are what the holidays are all about. I hope your students get creative with this project! I bet the presentations will be a blast!

  4. Wow! What an amazing project. You are such an incredible teacher! I might have to alter this a little bit (you know, put it in French or something) and do it next year with my students. I feel more positive just having read about it!

  5. I'm utterly in love with your project, Danielle. I think it's such a phenomenal idea to help young people (or anyone, really) focus on the wonderful things about themselves or their lives. I would love to hear more about what your students chose to focus on with their projects, if you'd be interested in sharing a little bit!! (This kind of stuff is my thing - what I try to help students do on a small scale every single day!!)


Feel free to throw some witticisms my way.