It’s been a perfect storm of personal interactions, TED Talk videos, stuff I’m reading and odd memories over the last few days. And all of it is leading me back to concerns I have about how a lot of K-12 people do school and what the K-12 community values.

March and April is state assessment season and I hear and see a lot of teachers schools focusing purely on high test scores. High test scores are not evil in and of themselves but when teachers education sacrifices good instruction, when they schools eliminate art and recess for more drill and kill math test prep, when they teachers stop teaching content as soon as the assessment is over because “that stuff’s not on the test,” when computer carts aren’t available to anyone except for assessment practice starting in January . . . well, it bugs me.

So it’s been cool over the last few days to be reminded again about why and how teaching is such a great job.

I talked with a teacher recently who overheard some of her students talking during a hands-on activity.

This is fun,

said the first kid. His friend replied:

Yeah, we’re not learning this for the test, we’re learning it just ’cause.

I recently finished a book titled The Sharper the Knife, the Less You Cry that documents a corporate executive’s move from big business to cooking school. The author quotes William Zinsser’s On Writing Well:

The constant desire to win is a very American kind of trouble. Less glamorous gains made along the way – learning, wisdom, growth and confidence, dealing with failure – aren’t given the same respect because they can’t be given a grade. We need to remember the less glamorous but more important things in life.

That reminded me of a piece from an essay written by Robert Hastings:

There is no station, no place to arrive at once and for all. The joy of life is the trip and the station is a dream that constantly outdistances us.

Then earlier this morning, I ran across a blog that featured a TED talk by John Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach, who was talking about the difference between winning and success. In the short clip, Wooden defines success as:

Piece of mind attained only through the self-satisfaction in knowing that you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MM-psvqiG8]

My hope is that you, and your kids, were able to learn something today . . . just ’cause.