Cultivating Joy and Whimsy in the Middle School Classroom

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1 Part Video – Total Time: 19:21

By Jenine Wehbeh

My TPAR process centered on a radical vision of joy and interconnectedness. Through my TPAR process I hoped to work with students to center play, laughter, joy, and wellness. We connected with nature, used transformative justice practices, built relationships within our school community, and fostered an environment that uplifted imagination and rest.

Cultivating wonder, joy, whimsy with students as wellness during the fever pitch of neoliberal pandemic politics.

  1. What do/can teachers do to support the well-being of students?
  2. How do/can schools support the well-being of students and teachers?

I will conduct research on the impact of centering student stories, playing games, experiencing nature, and practicing whimsy on student well-being during the transition from virtual learning to full-time school-based learning during the global pandemic.

The experiences of young people in the city of Chicago during the global pandemic have been dehumanizing and steeped in trauma. Many young people experienced disconnection, isolation, and lack of spaces to nurture their inner spirit. Chicago Public Schools passed massive disinvestment and violent policies that risk students’ personal safety and community well-being. My hope is to decenter the crisis and move from a space of love and wonder rather than reaction.

Community Cultural Wealth (Yosso, 2005)

Healing frameworks/ transformative justice  

Critical pedagogy/praxis

Social movement unionism

Union/teacher organizing

Journal reflections

Peer Conference

Circle check-ins

History Fair (community/local history multimodal research connecting to self/ancestors)

Field trips that nurture play

Community games

Centering student lives and experiences through:

  • People’s Museum Project
  • Scrapbook Project

About Jenine Wehbeh

Jenine Wehbeh is currently the Manager of Learning Resources at the Field Museum in Chicago. She was a seventh and eighth-grade social studies teacher in Chicago Public Schools and internationally for over 6 years. Her teaching and work emphasizes critical pedagogy, ethnic studies, equity, and social justice within the exploration of historical and current events. She facilitated the annual Chicago History Day where her student’s projects are about local history, centering the voices of historically marginalized people, women, workers, Black/Brown, and Indigenous peoples. Wehbeh established a Peer Conference student-led group and facilitated transformative justice training for students to mediate conflict, build community, and reduce harm in their school community. Her teaching and curriculum development approach stems from a community organizing framework, is participatory, and largely conducted through student-led projects. Her current interests are radical imagination, healing, and collective joy for liberation.