A blogger this week called school a form of "Listerine Learning," based on the early advertisements for Listerine that acknowledged how bad Listerine tasted but sold it anyway based on the fact that it was good for you. I have been having this conversation with myself this week after a particularly boring powerpoint on macromolecules, along with the realization that some of the kids have been rushing through the work to get it done (French work springs to mind, and a particularly boring conversation about Taming of the Shrew).
I left public school specifically because there was little room left for joy, and I have worked hard to NOT replicate that at HoneyFern. It does require effort and constant evaluation and reflection of what is going on in school. If it seems like all we are doing is checking off tasks, or the kids are slowing down or turning in shoddy work, then I look at the assignments, ask for input and/or let them re-design what they are doing. The author of the above post treats "rigor" like a dirty word, but I believe a task that a student is invested in is naturally rigorous; the trick is to find tasks that are meaningful and promote engagement so a student is in the final product!
We did have a conversation about the fact that some parts of learning aren't thrilling (things like comma rules and macromolecules!!), but I did reassure them that I will do everything I can to help find the connection to real-life and application so they can at least understand why something is important, even if it isn't rainbows and butterflies while we are learning it. Doesn't mean I will always be successful, and it doesn't mean that students need justification for every little thing they do; sometimes we have to do things we don't necessarily understand or enjoy. That's life. What this does mean, though, is that I need to continue to try to make each stduent's education relevant and personal. Learning should be joyful, and it should reflect the learner. If it doesn't, it is time to step back and re-evaluate.
Personally, I like Listerine - in my mouth, not my school!