Monday, June 21, 2004

No joy left behind

Commondreams posted one of those essays which touches on so many different subjects but really it's about the importance of the human touch in the classroom. Without that, learning stops for vulnerable kids.
Why should we care about teachers having time to nurture joy and interconnectedness between and among students? These are not goals outlined in state content area standards, and they can’t be tested. Joy cannot be scripted into scope and sequence charts, and does not reside in a teacher’s manual. However, I believe that now, more than ever, we need to do the necessary work to develop human beings more open to diversity, difference, and yes, even conflict – qualities that we all need as we are simultaneously both local and global citizens.

Paolo Freire wrote, “Educators must become conscious individuals who live part of their dreams within their educational space.” My original classes of students are now several years out of high school: some in college, some having children, some working at a substandard wage, some enlisting in the armed forces, some, I imagine, sent to fight in Bush’s illegal war in Iraq. My dream for these students is that they might remember times when they reached beyond differences, beyond divisions, and were able to laugh and cry with each other. My wish is that these memories will inform the way that they interact with the world, and that the experiences they had in my educational space somehow helped to engender a respect for humanity and a tolerance for difference.

I urge to teachers continue to pursue the goals of nurturing joy, interconnection, and understanding in their diverse classrooms in spite of the relentless onslaught of scripted and quantified learning objectives that they face in the NCLB-driven system. The small efforts at learning the art of peace that go on in one classroom may seem insignificant in the face of the deep-seated divisions that our world must confront, but without such efforts there can be no hope for change.
With the end of the school year, I've been reconnecting with the momfriends at other schools. It's inevitable we compare notes: how was it, was it a successful year, what was positive, what didn't work, did the child learn, did the child like school. With the new school year coming up, we all hope the kids'll get a teacher who will be someone they can look to for guidance in being a decent human being. Fairness, integrity, ability to connect and communicate, emotional availability: all are intangibles when it comes to any quantitative measure.