Does It Have To Be Fun?

Have you seen this child? He* is the child who decides within a few seconds that something is boring. He is the child that finds school boring, no matter what. He is the child that rolls his eyes up and chooses to be disinterested in your lesson before you have even started, before he even knows what to expect, because he has decided that school is boring.

Seen him before? Had him ruin your hard planned lessons and your birthday parties?

Now, I am all for having fun. We have a lot of fun in my home and in my classrooms.  There is a very big place for fun in all areas of learning. But life isn’t all about having fun. There is also that very important element of meaningful and engaging learning. Those times when you sit and become totally absorbed in the experience and the process. That moment when you can get up at the end of it all and say, “Wow…look at what I achieved today!”

What does concern me though, is those students who view their whole lives from the perception that if it is not fun, it is not good. If it is not fun…it is boring. All Kinds Of Minds (AKOM) refers to this child as the disengaged learner…the one who has become incapable of attaching meaning to any of his learning or experiences and so he finds most things to be boring. He has become a totally passive participant in his learning journey. I know a few adults who have obviously grown up to become disengaged adults…

The child who is able to extract meaning from his learning environment is the child who is able to make life connections therefore make this meaning relevant to his own self.

So – what is our role here as parents?

As our kids (hopefully) hop out the car in the morning and bounce down to the school gate we need to stop saying, “Have fun at school today!”  How about, “Have an interesting/meaningful day,” or “I hope you learn something great today…” and how about, “I hope you have some challenging moments in your day today.”

And our role as teachers?

Firstly, I believe a conversation with the disengaged child is in order. Usually this child is not able to see how big a part he actually plays in his “boring,” experiences. It boils down to telling a child to turn on his learning “switch.” I am quite amazed at how powerful this small move can actually be.

Secondly, it is our role as educators to provide the disengaged learner with an authentic activity that will give him the opportunity to be really engaged in his learning and experience a true sense of accomplishment. The answer lies in the student completing some real research activities around his true interests to set him off on the right path.  It usually takes one fantastic experience of engagement, curiosity and accomplishment to get the message across. It may involve the student stepping out of his regular curriculum for a while to complete a special task…or better yet…it may involve you totally adapting your curriculum or assignment expectations for a while so that each student experiences satisfaction in learning.

So, have some fun at school…but we’re not paying school fees for our kids to have fun are we? May your children have compelling, engaging and inspiring days at school today.

*I have seen plenty of “hers” too, but for easier reading, it is all about him today.

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11 Responses to Does It Have To Be Fun?

  1. Pingback: Does It Have To Be Fun? | Teacher Mum

  2. Jenny says:

    I think frequently about the language I use with students and with my daughters. I hadn’t considered the difficulties inherent in the word ‘fun’. My oldest suffers from significant anxiety about school. Telling her to have fun may not be the best send-of for her. I hadn’t considered that.

    • TeacherMum says:

      Something to think about Jenny. Wouldn’t it be so nice if we could eliminate anxiety in children by just eliminating one word from our vocabulary? I suppose it is a start…

  3. Agapantha says:

    It seems like such a normal thing to say to your kids: “Have fun at school today!” I suppose we are dealing with a different generation – an electronic generation too. One would hope that teachers make an effort to “engage” students.

  4. Felicity F. says:

    Good post. I recenly read this fantastic Shakespeare activity that you would probably enjoy reading if you are talking about engaging students:

  5. GERALD says:

    Wow! My thoughts exactly – I have always told my kids (and now grand-kids!) that the word “bored” shouldn’t be in their vocabs: – Read something! Do something constructive!
    Play something! Being bored is a form of laziness. Keep going with your blog – we all learn something (besides your excellent English writing)

    • TeacherMum says:

      HI Gerald
      Thanks for your comments. I agree that the word “bored” should not be in their vocabulary. I also guarantee you that many kids who complain that they are bored do not even know the meaning of the word.

  6. Moebius says:

    I’ve been thinking about this post, and I think the problem is with what we are teaching the word “fun” to mean. Fun does not have to mean easy. Climbing a mountain is not easy, but any mountaineer will tell you the more difficult it was, the more fun she had. We teach little kids that parties and play dates are fun. It’s a more mature concept to regard challenges as fun- that’s what we need to work on.

    • TeacherMum says:

      Would climbing a mountain and overcoming challenges better be described as fulfilling, rather than “fun?”

  7. Wow, what a compelling post. Gives me – as a new mom – a lot to think about as my child learns and grows. I can play a critical role in his perceptions, expectations and approaches to learning in its many forms. Thank you for this! Stopping by from the time travel and following you.

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