Finding the JOY…

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 1, 2012

   I think you’d be hardpressed to find a teacher who finds joy in ISTEP+ or whatever standardized state testing s/he administers.  Do we understand the purpose?  Yes, but it doesn’t make the experience enjoyable. 

   I must admit, however, I was one of those odd students.  I loved “testing week”.  I remember sitting at my elementary desk to take the Iowa Basics Test (I think that was the name…but I never lived in Iowa?)  I remember having that test booklet in front of me, listening to directions, and carefully completing those math problems, reading those stories, and choosing answers to the comprehension and language questions.  I felt “important” completing the test…yes, I’m an odd duck.

   Things changed when I was no longer completing the test but being judged by the test.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter how confident I may feel in the skills and abilities God has given me as a teacher, through my training, experiences, and personality.  That confidence doesn’t alleviate the anxiety that enters a school or a classroom as the standardized tests hit.

   How do we face those anxieties? 
   How do we avoid being overwhelmed by the fear of failure? 
   How do we not let it have power over us?

 My answer is…find the joy. Joy?  In ISTEP+? 

   Yes, I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but if you try…you can do it.  So, I thought I’d give it a shot.  First, I have less grading to do during testing weeks.  Since my students spend several of our school hours completing the tests, they have less time to produce student work which requires assessing.  Second, generally, my classroom is quieter.  With them focusing on their assessments, they are less enticed to have off-task conversations in class.

   Of course, I think my students’ biggest joy is less homework.  My language class doesn’t have a spelling packet this week and during class we’re skipping vocabulary due to shortened class time.  You’d think they received a treasure when I announced on Monday…”We’re taking ISTEP+ this week, so…you have NO SPELLING HOMEWORK or VOCABULARY PACKET!”  [Yes, I announced it with the voice of a game show announcer to add excitement to the news.]

   You see, focusing on the good helps us to endure the bad.

   Aren’t we the same way with our life’s journey?  Gosh, I remember years ago, as a beginning teacher, gathering in Mrs. Stoner’s second grade classroom to begin the day in prayer with other teachers.  As I would stand in her classroom, I looked up to her wall.  I suppose in second grade they post words that need to be readily recognized, and her students had “jobs”.  So, she had the word JOB posted on her wall.

   Do you know where my head went each morning when I saw that?  Yep, you probably guessed it. I didn’t see “job.” I read it as “Job”.  I remember that year was one of my most difficult thus far in my journey.  It was difficult, at times, to keep a joyful spirit.  But, each day when I gathered in prayer with those Sisters in Christ, I would think, “This is nothing compared to what Job went through…so I’ll be fine.”  You see, remembering all Job endured and yet he still praised God encouraged me to do likewise.  

  • Are some years harder than others?  Yes.  But…things can always be worse.  Just ask Job.
  • Are some things stressful?  Yes.  But…Daniel survived the lions’ den, so surely I can survive ISTEP+.
  • Are there times when the finances are tight?  Sure.  But, the Israelites had their needs met by manna from heaven, so I can trust that He will take care of my needs.

You see…there’s always joy.  You can choose to be joyful or you can choose to wish your life away.  You can choose to look on the bright side of life, or you can feel like a dark cloud is hovering over each step you walk.  You choose your attitude…your perspective…your thoughts each day.

   Choose to see Him working and trust that He will work all things together for your good and His glory…even if you can’t see it at the time.  I mean, I really don’t think Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were comprehending the purpose when they were tossed in the fiery furnace…but through the fiery flames they saw their Lord leading them through. OK, so the ISTEP+ isn’t fiery flames, but it can still burn.

 …Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  –Psalm 30:5

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.     –Proverbs 17:22

 Choose wisely, my friends. Choose Joy! 

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