Sep 19, 2011

School Doesn’t Have To Be Fun.

She disagrees with me. It is most definitely not the first time. She disagrees with me about the finer details, but more importantly she disagrees with me about the foundation of my argument.

I don’t think class needs to be fun.

You see, I have been seeing the word “fun” pop up over and over in discussions about student engagement. Do I like when learning is fun? Of course. Do I try to ensure that the learning in the classroom is fun? No.

You see to me the difference is intention.

When we try to frame the learning around the idea of fun, I think we water it down, we create unreal expectations. Learning something new is often the opposite of fun.

Take playing guitar for instance, Guitar Hero is fun, but in the need to make it fun, the chords are now buttons, the strings a single switch. If you have ever tried to learn guitar, you know it takes awhile until you know enough for it to be fun. Even then, once you’ve learned those first three songs, if you want to get better, you have to go back to not sounding good, not having fun.

If you are a struggling reader, that is not fun. Reading doesn’t become fun until you are proficient enough that you can escape into the story and stop thinking about reading. I explained this to a class of mine, many of them struggling and reluctant readers, and they didn’t disagree, but they asked, “So, why would I want to do something, if it isn’t going to fun?” For which I replied, “Think of anything fun. Video games, sports, whatever. Think about the people who created these things. Do you think they had as much fun as you do? Probably not. They had to struggle through the mistakes and missteps. In the end, they have fun playing their games, but they needed to do the work behind the scenes first.”

But you see, that’s where I stop myself. I think learning is fun. I think struggling with a problem is fun. But that isn’t the reason why we do it.

Are my classes fun? Sometimes. No doubt about it, I like to have fun and many classes have moments of extreme fun, but fun is never my intention. It is a side effect, like drowsiness and irritability.

Her and I, we agree on many things. We agree school needs to be engaging. We agree that school needs to be exciting. But we just can’t agree that school doesn’t have to be fun.

1 Comment

  • Kempster, I agree with this. In my opinion, classes should not be “fun” but they should be, at least, interactive. What I mean is, a teacher shouldn’t give every one a textbook and questions every day, instead it should be more like your class where open discussions and learning as a “community” or a collective group is a common thing. I am planning to look at the school system for my “Google Time”.

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