The Joyless Pursuit of Excellence

Last Friday as I watched one of my favorite weekly shows (Greater Boston‘s Beat the Press segment), I heard panelist Margery Eagan describe the atmosphere at the Boston Globe as the “joyless pursuit of excellence”. In our local newspaper world, there is no doubt that the Globe is a superb paper and even when I don’t agree with their editorial positions, the articles are well-written and in-depth.

What I didn’t know until Eagan’s comment, was this phrase is commonly associated as the motto of (former) editor Marty Baron.

The more I considered this phrase, the more powerfully I was struck by its connection to the educational environment today. So often educators – and administrators – talk about the stress of preparing students for assessments, or adhering to standards of achievement. I  don’t know anyone really who isn’t committed to their students and to helping those children learn, yet we are all always feeling as if what we do does not measure up.

Even the joy of seeing a student who is (finally) “getting it” becomes overshadowed by the fear that it wasn’t on the time schedule thought up by some faceless bureaucrat in a faraway place well-insulated from actual children.

Certainly we all want to be excellent educators, and more to the point, we want our students to be excellent too. But as to joy? Those moments seem elusive.

I don’t have a solution except to become more cognizant that, along with the stress, we all need a lot more joy. I need to make my journey a more joy-filled pursuit of excellence.