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.
Time to sharpen the pencils. We’ll be in the thick of things before you know it. And I can’t wait.
There is something about the wrap up of September that excites me. One of the many reasons I love this job. Every September we can refocus, declare our direction and set our trail. New chances for everyone, students and teachers.
As a student, I loved September too. Every year, I convinced myself that this would be the year of underlining my date, staying organized, doing all my homework and getting straight ‘A’s. Now, of course, the wheels would inevitably fall off by mid-September. But things are different this time, no really. The goals I laid out for myself last September have been more or less kept. I re-up my commitment to the education revolution that we are in the midst of having.
My Goals This September
- contacting parents more frequently. I’d like to start with three from each class per week. That ensures the connection with their child’s learning is constant and constructive. By trying to hit the number goal, I’ll also be calling regarding more positive things. I’m going to make a concerted effort early to get e-mail addresses for parents as that is the easiest form of communication in my mind.
- bringing my lunch to school. This is connected to my training for Ironman, in which, keeping good energy is essential. But it is also connected to my desire to maintain my energy throughout the day. I want to be as engaged and passionate at 2:30 as I was at 8:30.
- sharing more in my building. My reading, my experiences, my thoughts/ideas, the tools that are working. But more importantly, try to get people to share with me more and develop the rich conversations I have online around pedagogy with those folks I’m teaching beside. As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, I have been encouraged to share more. I think I will. And I’ll hope for my colleagues to share more too.
- using Evernote with every student to provide feedback. It worked so well in Summer School and the second half of last semester, I will be employing these methods across the board. This tool allows me to provide timely, personal feedback but more importantly, have a reservoir for all that feedback so a student/parent/myself can look back from the beginning of the course and see all the feedback I’ve given.
- keeping an organized calendar. This will be essential as I am always busy, but with Ironman training as well, this year will be madness. This is one of the goals I’ve tried before, but this year it will be even more essential. Keeping a calendar will allow me to maximize my time working towards my why.
- choosing the right battle. My father always told me to, “Pick my battles.” This is the year, I stop picking the wrong ones and I stay focused on those that are most important. Too often I get mired down in the small battles that cost much and accomplish little.
- answering emails promptly. I’m one of the world’s worst for receiving an e-mail, reading it and planning on responding later. Of course, that inevitably leads me to forget about it and never respond. This September, I am going to stop waiting for tomorrow what can be done today, especially around e-mail.
- my daily gratitude notes again. I once heard an interview with Seth Godin and he was asked, “What is the most important thing you could do today to make the biggest change?” and his response, “Say thank you to someone every day.” I employed this idea a year ago when I left a thank you note in someone’s mailbox every day. I fell off the wagon last year, but it is time for me to start again.
- “It is not what has been taken from you, but what you do with what is left.”
- student’s learning at the end of every class. What have we learned? Why have we learned it? If it is minor or major does’t matter, I think clarifying what we are doing every day will help us prepare to learn for the next day.
- the why, every time it gets muddled.
- the role of the teacher, student and administrator.
- the door of the classroom.
- the either/or frame of thinking and embrace the both/and. (A blog post dedicated to this concept and my thoughts around it is coming.)
And there they are. As with any goal setting, I’ll be constantly adding, revising, removing these as I buffet in the wind, but this list will help fix my direction and help me set my sails.
What are your goals for the year?
Because if you aren’t something’s wrong.
For a profession filled with learners, we don’t do near enough learning.
Yeah, I know, we aren’t given the time to put into our learning. We spend so much of it prepping lessons, planning killer assignments, and marking papers and tests. But how much time are we actively learning?
And for those who are learning, how much of that learning do you share with your students?
Do they see you struggle with the concepts you’re wrestling with? Do they see the hard, messy work that is learning?
I’d suggest that this is critical to being an effective teacher.
1. A love for learning is contagious. Just talk to someone who is passionately engaged in learning the guitar, studying history or in the process of writing and if you are truly a learner, you can’t help but feel that pull. I’ve been engaging in conversation with multiple colleagues who are actively learning about leadership, poetry, and writing. Listening to them talk about what they are learning, how they are learning, why they are learning and listening to them speak passionately encourages me to keep pushing.
2. The fallacy that the teacher knows everything must end. The jig is up. And I’d suggest admitting your limitations is not enough. Learning must be active. We must revel in the messiness of learning and show students that learning doesn’t end after school. Learning is constant. Real learning, not just required PD sessions.
So, I ask again, what are you learning? I want to share in it.
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