The Joy Standard

The Joy Standard


This article about a New Jersey public school teacher’s response to Governor Christie’s finger wag has me thinking – what DO I want as a writer, a teacher of writing, and as a citizen of a democracy where one day, the students in front of me will be making important decisions?


More joy. And lots of pride. And research.

Professionally, I don’t quibble much with teaching to standards.  The Common Core Standards, although controversial, allow for all different types of writing, varying lengths of writing time, and digital collaboration and publishing. When I look at just the standards and not the backstory, they work for me.  And in the end, I’ll do whatever my employer tells me to do as long as I am doing right by my students. 

Now permit me to paraphrase The Spice Girls and tell you what I want, what I really, really want:

I want a Joy Standard at the top of every document teachers, administrators, parents and legislators have to read. What do I mean? Here’s a story to illustrate this simple and often lost point.


A history of comedy = joyful learning and writing.

A few years ago, I ran into a former student working as cashier at CVS.  Diomi applied to and was accepted to a charter high school for the performing arts.  I asked Diomi how he liked it. His eyes lit up and he said, “Oh, Miss. I LOVE it.  I’m taking an OPERA class!”

All of the students who walk into our classrooms each day deserve that chance to have their eyes light up just like Diomi’s. So here’s a draft of my Joy Standard:

“Our goal: students will walk out of school excited to come back to learn, create, and explore the next day.  We will fully fund the arts, physical education, and core classes to ensure well-rounded, informed students. We will not let anything stand in our way of making leaning joyful and meaningful for our students.”

This simple proclamation. At the top of each and every paper related to education policy and standards.


Dancing was joy for this 8th grade boy.

As I lesson plan this year, I will ask myself – where is the joy in this writing lesson? Since the folks writing the standards and the legislation don’t seem to give the joy of learning much thought, it must start with us.

What would your “Joy Standard?” sound like? Tell us below:

Mythological joy.

Mythological joy.

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