Human and Academic Development DivisionJoy and Juggling in the Classroom
To set the stage for a semester of joy and self-discovery, John Carmichael begins his human development classes with a three-minute juggling demonstration in which students are invited to participate in the process of learning to juggle. Why does he use juggling as an instructional tool? Through the activity of learning to juggle, John demonstrates that trying new techniques, changing habits, and practicing new behaviors can be uncomfortable at first. John's students grasp that, like learning to juggle, learning new behaviors can be hard and sometimes frustrating, requiring practice, effort, concentration, and persistence. Eventually, though, these uncomfortable activities will begin to feel natural. For the duration of the semester each class begins with this juggling activity.
The juggling exercise also provides opportunities for John to compliment and encourage students, thus modeling for students the importance of affirming and celebrating incremental success. Students learn that the practice of juggling, like the practice of studying, can produce dramatic improvement. They realize that risk taking is fertile ground for growth, and they learn that juggling can be humbling and insightful. Students discover hidden potential.
The juggling exercise encourages participation, increases the level of energy in the classroom, and encourages interaction with other students. It also reminds students that they may need to "lighten up" and take some risks. By emphasizing an activity such as juggling that sometimes causes one to feel foolish, John Carmichael models that we often take ourselves much too seriously. In the process, he builds community and leads students on a life-changing journey of self discovery.