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Making Fun of School

September 14, 2009

My youngest brother died unexpectedly during my first week of full-day student teaching. The last time I spoke with him, two days before he died, he told me he didn’t understand why anyone would want to be a teacher because “nobody has any fun in school.” His words—and my own experiences as a student and as a beginning teacher—inspired me to begin asking people when learning was fun for them.

I started at the end of my first year of teaching high school English (definitely NOT the most favorite subject of many students!), hoping I could learn something that would help me be a better teacher. More than twenty years later, I’m still asking these questions:

1) Write about a time when learning was fun for you. If you can, describe specific experience(s), including age, grade level, subject matter, etc. (or you may choose to describe an out-of-school experience).

2) Do you have a particular memory of a wacky, engaging, creative, unusual, intense, or otherwise “fun” teacher? If so, describe her or him.

3) If you’ve ever taught anybody anything, did you do something to make the experience fun and engaging? Include as many specifics as you can.

4) Feel free to describe a time when learning was NOT fun for you.

As part of research for my dissertation several years ago, I analyzed the content from hundreds of fun surveys to see what I could learn from them. Although fun in learning can’t be easily defined, some common themes emerged and are represented by six words: choice, relevance, engagement, active learning, teacher attitude, and camaraderie. In future blogs, I will explain each theme and give you concrete advice for activating them to help you be more successful in school.

The first questions to consider if you’re thinking about going back to school—or if you’re back in school and you’d like to get the most out of your experience—are these: When is learning fun for you and why? When is learning not fun for you and why?

I’d love to hear from you.

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