Bring Back the Joy

If you stopped by out of curiosity about who won the tea, I’ll get to the winner in a minute. (Click here if you’re not sure what that statement means.) But first, I have to mention something I read today. You might have heard about the Florida teacher whose resignation letter went viral. Click here for that story. Now that I’m in the middle of a curriculum assignment, I pay more attention to articles about teachers.


On Facebook, the teacher expressed an increasing frustration over a joyless education system, which led to her resignation. Well, the fact that she recently had a baby who will one day be educated in that same environment also played a factor in her resignation.

This isn’t the first post I’ve seen where someone expressed frustration or disgust over the current education expectations. But the fact that an excellent teacher was left disheartened made me sad. Since the letter went viral, others must share her frustration.

I don’t plan to argue for or against Common Core. In fact I can’t help thinking about another article I read, which explained why the answer to a math problem was marked wrong despite the fact that the answer was indeed right. (You can read that article here.) While I understand the author’s explanation, I can see a child’s or a parent’s confusion with it, especially if the goal for learning this way seemed convoluted or wasn’t explained at all.

I’ve heard experts say that “we have to be competitive” due to advances in technology. But if kids, parents, and great teachers are frustrated enough to want to quit, I have to wonder if we’re going in a good direction.


When I was a kid, I loved school. I had joy in learning new skills. Because of that, I try to instill the joy of learning in the activities I write for kids. But as this frustrated Florida teacher mentioned, for some the joy seems to be gone.

I’ve seen this kind of disillusionment in other fields where assessment rubrics have increased exponentially and employees are bogged down in paper work.

Is it any wonder that the video game industry has proliferated? A video game provides a means of escape—a way to wind down. Books can provide that too. Yet lately, I’ve read but did not finish several books geared toward kids that seemed as joyless as the education system seems to that teacher. Where has the joy gone?

In the past few months I’ve heard more kids say, “I want to be a video game designer” than I’ve heard say, “I want to be a teacher.”

Food for thought.

Speaking of food, let’s get to the winner of Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Tea and the crocheted leaves.

Without further ado, that person is . . .


Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Penny of Lifeonthecutoff Blog

Penny, please comment below to confirm. Then please email your address.


Education clip art from and

43 thoughts on “Bring Back the Joy

  1. I’m heading into Manchester today with She Who Must Be Obeyed.
    This will become my mantra: where has the joy gone? Or rather, to remain neutral to the question, as I walk around my home city I will ask myself ‘where is the joy?’
    See where, and if, I find it.

  2. 20 years ago I heard some “thinkers ” wanted to substitute computers to teachers for some ” good ” reasons .
    Useless to say I was vehemently against this . Students need a teacher and his pedagogy.

    On another topic , who made those crocheted leaves ?
    In friendship

  3. “When I was a kid, I loved school. I had joy in learning new skills.”

    This! Whoever is running the education circus forgot about this. It’s all about the test scores now and not the individual child. So there’s no focus on getting a child to love learning and continue doing it long after graduation. All they’ll know is how to study for a test, which doesn’t really have an impact on their grades. The whole ‘you got the answer, but not the right way’ is such BS too. People simply don’t think in identical ways. I could keep going on a rant about this epic level of idiocy that’s going to mentally cripple several generations. But I’ll stick with that they have to get off the obsession of standardized tests. Let a kid be a kid and flourish toward whatever they truly love. Cause I’m sure it won’t always be math and English like this system seems to think.

    Also, I think all the politicians and administrators should take these tests with no study time allowed. After all, they’re adults in the real world and that obviously means they have these skills perfected. Just make it that if they score below 95%, they have to find a new line of work.

    • Oh Charles, I totally agree. I get so aggravated at the notion that test scores are a deciding factor on college placement and success. As I mentioned to someone here–Penny I think–some genius-level kids score poorly on the standardized tests. Yet they flourish in their classes. Those tests are geared toward a certain learning style. We don’t all have the same learning style!

      I agree that the powers that be should be forced to take the tests with the same parameters that students face. They should also be forced to attend a fifth grade class and be tested on the information they receive, along with the assigned homework. It’s so easy to make policies when you’re so far removed from those affected by them.

      • Another focus is on ‘improvement’, which has its own problems. Kids that are at the top can’t show this, but it sounds like some schools penalize the lack of ‘improvement’. They also get in trouble for falling, so it becomes a lose-lose situation. This stems more from the translation and implementation of the program as well as money for the school being tied to the numbers.

        I’d say no class or homework. Just the test or they’re booted out of their position. After all, they’re an adult who claims this will help kids in the real world. That means they should be able to ace these examines after a lifetime of using these skills in the real world.

      • Yes, this is a lose-lose situation. That aspect needs to be revised. It frustrates parents and teachers alike. In the meantime, I attended a performance at a high school which is one of the top in Illinois. A lot of the students were depressed and sick of school. This is the cost of pushing kids.

      • Meanwhile we might continue to have more burned out teachers and students. 😦 But I see more and more fed-up parents taking action.

      • I see that too. There’s a big opt out movement in this area and people are pushing against Common Core at every turn. Yet it doesn’t seem to be changing the minds of the politicians and whoever else is behind it.

      • The politicians say Common Core is here to stay. Yet test scores (at least in this area) have dropped! So I wonder how long it will stay if test scores keep decreasing.

      • Eye roll is right! Anything to avoid being called wrong about policy! How can anyone NOT compare past and present test scores??

    • I was thinking the same thing, Jill. Though people complain about memorization and other aspects of the education system, there was something to be said for how it helped us learn. It didn’t stop us from learning to use the computer either.

      Yeah, I’ve heard a number of parents who have pulled their children out of the school system to homeschool them. I can’t blame them.

  4. In the last three weeks I’ve been to two events about women and children and the need for either better or different education as a solution to many of the problems. The good news is there are people out there thinking outside of the box to create the curriculum. For myself, I don’t know anything about video games….still love picking up a book!

    • I’m glad to hear people are thinking outside the box. That gives me hope for change, Geralyn.

      I notice how quickly many kids pick up the most complicated video games. That proves they’re capable of learning if the environment is friendly and inviting. That’s something educators really need to take into consideration.

  5. Children in kindergarten should NEVER be asked to take standardized tests. They are NOT widgets to be standardized.

    Children in the first few grades should be taught to LOVE learning and reading. All else will follow from that.

    Congrats to Penny.

  6. Oh, wow! I’m delighted to win. Thank you. I will email you, but, please, please know I appreciate being “picked”. 🙂 Love the leaves and I know I’ll love the tea leaves.

    I have been a proponent of public education my entire adult life; college educated to teach, having been a teacher myself and later becoming an elected member of a board of education. I argued against No Child Left Behind. While its intent was probably good (who can argue that all children should have education), its implementation was poor, to say the least, and has harmed more than helped. We have produced several generations who do not know how to seek knowledge, but, instead, know how to take tests and wreaked havoc on school systems. Testing companies tie into text book companies. Someone(s) is making tons of money on this while our children are not being properly served and our teachers are no longer teaching, through no fault of theirs, nor administrators, who are bound to follow the letter-of-the-law. It is the policy-makers who have caused this.
    I agree with Charles; let the politicians try to take the tests, timed, perhaps in a hot or cold room, with a tummy ache. It is a sad time when excellent teachers opt out of education, good teachers retire early and veteran teachers are dissuading students from going into education. It breaks my heart.
    Parents hold more power than they think. It is called the vote. I encourage them to question candidates, let those elected know how they feel, in calm and deliberate way.
    OK – I’m done with my rant. See what you incited with your thought provoking post, L. Marie?

    • Oh wow. I totally agree. The tests are geared toward a certain learning style. I know kids who were tested as geniuses who still had trouble with the standardized tests! And these test scores are supposed to help decide college placement. It’s ridiculous! And yes, I can see why people are dissuaded against education. Still, I hate to see the war being lost.

      I agree that someone is profiting by this. It doesn’t seem to be the students!

  7. To have children disliking school at a young age is a shame. They have so many years of learning ahead of them, it behooves us to create the best environments so that we produce the best students. Much easier said than done though, I know.

    • I agree. And based on this teacher’s thorough study of education, she obviously knows what she’s talking about. To push kids beyond their limits so quickly is to court disaster. I’ve seen too many kids who seem burned out with school due to so much homework. And they haven’t even reached college!

      • When my oldest was in kindergarten, he hated school. I was distressed over the fact because he was (is) so smart, and he had so many years ahead of him. I hated to have him start on that trajectory. We switched him to a Montessori school in first grade, an educational system I knew little about at the time. What a difference. To see your child enjoy school is a relief that every parent deserves. I only wish everyone had that option.

  8. Metrics have their place, but when everything in this world becomes measured against something else, it can drive a person nuts. Unfortunately, it seems like it will only get worse as technology makes measuring more and more things possible. :-/ I’m hoping that by the time Angus gets to school, things will have begun to change, but I’m happy knowing that he has two parents who support educating him in a broader sense, despite what happens in “school.”

    • I’m sure it’s frightening to see what’s going on, since you’re a parent, Phillip. I hate to see good teachers quit because they’re frustrated. Something really needs to change. We need good teachers for these little ones!

  9. I so agree with you about childrens’ books! Sometimes I read the blurbs and wonder if it’s adults with a grudge against kids who’ve written them. Theer will be plenty of time for them to be miserable when they grow up – can’t they have some fun and escapism when they’re young?? And as for learning, I still remember the stuff I was taught by teachers who inspired me, but all the rest of the learning for exams stuff has long gone…

    • I’ve been very frustrated of late with some of the books I’ve picked up, especially those where the fantasy elements are toned down. It’s almost like there is a fear of fantasy being too “fantastic.” Gotta make it more “realistic”–a ridiculous notion if ever I heard one. No wonder kids keep returning to the Harry Potter books.

      I can’t help being reminded of a chemistry T.A. I had as an undergraduate. He was an excellent teacher who made learning fun. Everyone got As and Bs. But since the course was supposedly a weeding out course (can’t have too many premed majors), he was replaced. The grades immediately dropped.

  10. I saw that teacher’s resignation letter on Facebook, too, and it really saddened me. I have a few relatives who were teachers (most are retired now) and they really struggled with the demands put upon them that seemingly have nothing to do with teaching and learning. I can’t imagine being a parent and trying to work through the confusing maze that our educational system has become. it’s so reductionistic, so one-size-fits-all. Everything has to be measurable, but how do you really measure critical thinking and creativity? How do you put a number to that? Not everything of value can be measured quantitatively, and the burden put on children, that takes the joy out of learning and makes it a chore, is truly dismaying.

    • It really is, Marie. Learning styles seem to be forgotten in this technology-driven age. The burden is placed on kids and parents to keep up. In the Common Core standards, a paragraph about keeping up with other nations was included. So competition is the goal. 😦

  11. I have a neighbor who is retirement age. That’s not why she retired from teaching, though. There was too much technology for her.

    On the positive side, I feel that my children and grandchildren have had and are having a good education. My children started out at the International School in Manila. I was on the School Board there, and we all had many complaints. Yet all the kids I know who studied there are successful today. Maybe parents worry too much. Later my kids went to a public school in WA. It was a good school in a suburb. The trouble is, states don’t fully fund their schools, so only schools in prosperous areas are able to pass levies.

    Oh well. Schools are an enormous subject.
    Best wishes to your mom.

    • She’s doing much better now. I’ll have to note that in my next post. I spent the week with her.
      I agree that schools are sadly underfunded. I feel sorry for the kids and the teachers who try their best to facilitate a good education. But yes–schools in prosperous areas wind up with more resources.

  12. I hate to say that money is the problem, but it is. We aren’t investing in our schools, have too many students per teacher, mandate a curriculum where some kids will be bored, while others will never catch up and stay current. It’s insanity, and that’s from someone who loved school as a child. Pity.

    • You are so right, Renee. We aren’t investing in schools. (And I have to ask where the lottery money goes. Wasn’t that supposed to go for education? Ha ha. I’m laughing even as I type this. Sadly, I have a teacher friend with an extremely overcrowded classroom. And she’s a special ed teacher with progress reports to write each week.

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