How To Take The Joy Out of Education

Heather of Becoming Cliche joins The Official How To Blog today to tackle the issue of super-duper education policy that has thankfully turned our public school students into bubbling machines. You’ve got a circle that needs to be colored in? By all means, grab your nearest eight-year-old cuz that kid knows what’s up. Incidentally that same child might not know what’s up in the sky because science is optional.


1) Determine the best way to measure success.  This means test scores. Duh! There’s no such thing as potential that can’t be measured. If it ain’t on the score sheet, it ain’t there, folks. 

2) Use test scores appropriately. Preferably to pigeonhole kids so we know where to focus our attention. No sense pouring money down a sinkhole, after all. Bad score? No Honors English for you next year. What? You didn’t take  Honors English this year? Sorry, no Honors English II next year.  That’s too bad. You should have studied harder when you were ten. Catch the bad eggs in fifth grade so they never taint an AP English class in high school.

3) Alert students and teachers to upcoming tests. At least three months in advance by means of signage in hallways, weekly notes to parents, automated phone calls during the dinner hour,  and when applicable, a morning cheer.

4) Schedule mandated testing strategically. Cold and flu season is preferable. It’s the only way to separate the sheep from the goats. Inability to test well when faced with raging fever and barking cough represents regression toward the mean and helps identify your weak links on whom you should not waste time or resources.

5) Cut the fat in the budget. Preferably the gifted programs. Those kids already know enough to be going on with. We don’t want them to get too big for their britches now, do we?

6) Establish a curriculum. And deviate from it never. It goes without saying that said curriculum must be Ministry of Magic approved. We don’t want teachers stepping outside the box and teaching students things that won’t be found on the tests and are therefore useless.  Learning just for the fun of it is pointless. And maybe dangerous. Look at what happened with Hogwarts. Students used their time inappropriately and ended up blowing up the school. Amirite?

7) Respond to current events. Knee-jerk reactions are preferable. Because adding armed officers at every school means a crazed person with a gun and determination will not succeed, but a second grader with a Poptart is sure to.


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54 thoughts on “How To Take The Joy Out of Education

  1. Pingback: How To Take the Joy Out of Education | Becoming Cliche

  2. Where I teach, we just started the week long state testing torture. I hate it. Add to your #5 by cutting electives and the arts, too, because that seems to be an awful trend happening in high schools right now. These students desperately need programs like electives, arts, gifted/talented and more. Sadly, the testing nightmare is now growing instead of diminishing. We have been told that within the next two years, all grades from 3-11 will be tested. I guess if cookie cutter children is what “the education powers that be that have probably never set foot in a classroom” want, they are on their way to getting it! Great post – sorry for my rant, but I am feeling the same way you are!

  3. I like “Joy” wherever I go…especially when I’m teaching…it’s a sad situation when people who aren’t teachers get to zap us, and the kids, out of the enormous joy that comes with teaching and learning well!! Great post!

    • I completely agree. My son’s school is focusing now on “informational text” because it’s not scholarly enough to call it non-fiction, I suppose. I wanted to help the class create their very own non-fiction book, but we can’t. Because it won’t help them pass the test.

      • My friend who teaches 4th grade in a public school laments about the same things…teach to the test…and document ridiculous criteria being demonstrated in the classroom…no time to actually “teach!” To have fun with it…or to learn to love learning!!

  4. “…curriculum must be Ministry of Magic approved” Ha! Seriously. My husband teaches special ed kids. Instead of teaching them how to tie their shoes and not soil their pants, he has to make sure they learn geometry so they can pass the state tests. (Did I mention they’re 8?)

    • For both teachers and students. I was so fortunate to have innovative and creative educators when I was growing up. They were allowed to teach instead of being forced to prepare kids for six-times-a-year testing.

  5. Great job, Heather, especially #5 and #6. I don’t want to sound heartless, but you can’t just neglect gifted students, thinking they’ll get the material on their own. Often, they’re the very ones needing some structure! Nor can you simply fire good teachers who deviate from protocol in favor of reaching the kids — many times, these teachers are the best teachers a kid will have!

    • I could not agree with you more. I have a gifted kid who is being passed under the radar. His enrichment consists of helping out kindergarteners, which is good for his self-esteem but does little to promote his interests.

      • Boy, does this sound familiar! My son, too, is gifted and was sent a couple of grades up to learn higher math. I can only imagine what his classmates (and the older kids!) thought. Plus, he was repeatedly given “extra” work in an effort, I suppose, to encourage him to stretch his brain. No young kid wants to do MORE work! With states cutting back funding for education, it’s the gifted programs that suffer. And whether a parent has a gifted kid or not, we should all complain!

      • Not to invite myself into this convo (but I’m gonna), if you gals have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for your kiddos, the school is required to meet their needs. I believe that’s nation-wide, but I could be very wrong sitting here in Pennsylvania. Regardless, if you have to be “that parent” who floats around making sure your kid gets what he needs, then BE THAT PARENT. Too many families are complacent when it comes to the schools; moms and dads assume their kids’ educational needs are being met. Not enough parents realize it’s all about the test; there is very little enrichment–unless you demand it. Grab your bullhorn and have at it!

      • Yes, my husband and I have debated an IEP. It’s tough, though, because around here the burden to fulfill the IEP falls back on the classroom teacher. We have been watching the situation closely because I want his needs met, but I also don’t want him knowing how the school system is failing him. Does that make sense?

      • It definitely makes sense. You’re kind to want to help the classroom teacher and shield your son from the sad truth that his school probably isn’t the best place to facilitate his learning. That said, with an IEP, you have more power to dictate (or gently suggest?) that your son needs enrichment in various areas of learning. I’ve actually had students who end their school day a bit early to go on field trips or do work in a certain field of study. It’s hands-on, real world learning at its finest, and it’s only a possibility when the parents push for it.

  6. I am a high school English teacher and personally, I am offended that Heather has not included the school-wide assemblies to ring in TESTING WEEK. She’s also left out the part about bribes: “Do well on this test and you’ll get an early dismissal next week!” Slacking, Heather. Really slacking.


    • I can’t believe I left that part out! My daughter’s high school offers incentives. All the kids who are high achievers get out of school early one day a week. High achieving means “C” average. Way to award mediocrity!

      • Yeah, I’m crying. Our superintendent is hell-bent on making the school day longer, but my high schooler has one period per day called “advisory.” Where they sit. And do very little. I have words to share with him.

      • I worked in a high school that had an advisory period; it was about 20 minutes long and the purpose was to listen to announcements, pass out paperwork, update students on upcoming events, etc. In reality, it was a hot mess the resulted in students coming to school late because they wanted to skip advisory. OR, even better, walking the halls and getting into fights because even they knew advisory was useless. Whatta mess.

  7. Heather, I know how to come to here because of you.

    I have to defend knee jerk reactions. You’re not taking into account the sort of bacteria that can grow in pop tart filling. One minute you’ve got a kid doing pastry bite art, the next minute, an ebola outbreak.

    Sure, ebola is a virus, not bacteria. Don’t confuse me with facts.

  8. You forgot the most important thing– make sure all new curriculum and all testing is decided by people who have never set foot inside a classroom, do not have teachers or adminstrator licensure, and want to run school on a business model.

  9. Make certain we cut Civics, US and World History too. These really are not necessary for success. Just set the kids in front of the TV for extended periods and then test away.

    Make certain also, no Literature especially if it hasn’t been approved by those who are unable to read above a fifth grade level.

    Cut out all extra-curricular activities except Football, Basketball, Baseball and of course Cheer Leading. These are the things dreams are made of (at least in Texas).

  10. This is so funny; I work in education and sometimes it all feels like a vicious circle. But at least I’m proud to say some of the assessment I worked on is actually both useful *and* fun 😉 Yes I am that talented.

  11. When both my girls graduated high school and went on to college, I was so thrilled for them having fought so hard for my own education as well as all other African-American children following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (I was one of the first students to integrate my high school and college). My husband and I blessed them and said, “Go forth and learn all sorts of magnificient things–education is power!” And my youngest daughter (an A student) so astutely said: “Since we spent the past 12 years learning how to test, my classmates and I have no critical thinking skills (I, for one, can’t remember what I learned two months ago because I dumped it after the test was over). What type of foundation do we have to build all this powerful new information upon or shall we simply continue to swallow, regurgitate, and redo at the cost of thousands of dollars a year for tuition? You and Dad have a thirst for learning; I have a robotic reflex for testing–I’m great at taking tests, but I didn’t ‘learn’ a damn thing in high school.” She was right, of course, and they went to one of the best high schools in the land. God help us! Great blog, BC (Heather)!

  12. And don’t forget that all of these correct assertions are the ONLY thing that you are evaluated on and that if you don’t get specific test scores, your administration will begin haunting you and having “chats.”

  13. Dammit! I was always the world’s worst test-taker and now I know why. Although NyQuil cocktails is the secret behind why I always excelled in the writing portions of the tests.

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