Sunday, April 8, 2012

Nothing Without Joy


In one corner of the ring stands learning that is fun, motivating and engaging.

In the other--commanding cheers from a bloodthirsty throng--hails education that is rigorous, standardized and structured.

Who will win this ongoing battle?

It is a fight teachers wage every day in every lesson.

But I ask myself, "why must the two be separate?"  Teaching and learning can be both captivating and challenging.

Why are educators today being asked to choose?

Of course, in reality the struggle is much more subtle than two opponents duking it out in a wrestling match.

Rigor comes along wearing the multi-hued uniform of performance tasks, formative assessments and standardized tests. It continually exerts pressure and tries to edge out joyful classroom investigations.

Luckily for me I had a heaping dose of the Reggio Emilia "Nothing Without Joy" philosophy this past week courtesy of my friend and inspiration Lisa Burman.  Lisa was the AUSSIE literacy coach for our school for many, many years.  She championed teaching that respected the many languages of children in an organic, unhurried atmosphere.

Over a beer we discussed my concern that I was letting go of some of the joy in order to make way for rubrics, progress charts, compliant bulletin boards and scripted curricula.  She, in her brilliance, helped me see a way to navigate the demands of the Common Core Standards and the child-centered work we have been doing at our school for more than a decade.

It turns out I wasn't really veering too far off the path.

Rigor?  Of course!

Joy?  Always!

I lift a glass to you dear Lisa!


Joy Keaton said...

There's something about this I just really like... can't put my finger on what it is. xo Joy

Barbara said...

It must be a challenge for all of you teachers who keep getting squeezed by the system to work harder and play less.

I learned a valuable lesson in my reading session at the shelter this week (which was all about eggs). At one point the 6-year-old boys just couldn't sit still, so I stopped reading and said "Let's do jumping jacks while I count to 5!" They jumped hard and then sat back down to listen. Sometimes a little fun is all it takes.

Gary said...

Joy - I can state that there has been nothing without Joy since I was 17 years old.

Barbara - Exactly! I think every teacher finds that balance for themselves through experience. Lisa told me not to forget all the wonderful things I have learned over the years. She reminded me to remember what works even as the new (isn't there always something "new"?) comes beating down the door.

Ms.M said...

In that case when my state adopts them I am going to say "Hey Gary what on Earth did you do to keep yourself from banging you head against the wall?" Lol J/k

Ms. M

Gary said...

Ms. M. - You joke now...but wait! :)


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