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“Fun Is Good,” says Dr. Seuss

April 4, 2010

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.
• Mary Lou Cook

I was once part of a collaborative presentation where two members of the group left in a snit*—and left the rest of us to address key issues without their materials—because audience questions and concerns had put the presentation behind. Not only did they leave, they left vocally, calling the rest of us inconsiderate and rude. Their parting shot: “Thanks a lot for wasting our time,” pretty much signaled the end of accomplishing anything productive. This experience has left me skittish. It was difficult to finish, although the rest of did our best, feeling as uncomfortable as the audience.

Yesterday, I had the opposite kind of experience and here’s my advice for you if you’re a student who ever has to collaborate with your classmates on any kind of presentation: Be kind. Be generous. Be understanding. Be flexible. Smile. Create comfort with your presence. These things matter and you might as well do them. After all, once the presentation is going, it will be what it will be regardless, and your bad attitude can turn what could have been a meaningful shared experience into a disaster for everyone. I’ve seen this happen in class.

Over the years, I’ve observed a student “walk out” on fellow presenters by going back and sitting at his desk. I’ve seen others interrupt colleagues who are speaking. One student asked her partner to “shut up.” Fortunately, even though I’ve been teaching more than two decades, I haven’t seen much of this uncivil behavior, and I’m grateful for that. Teachers can see what’s happening when one person is hogging the time (although we also know when it’s happening because other member(s) are ill-prepared).

I am sympathetic when I see such things happening and I debrief with groups to sort things out for grading purposes. Publically humiliating anyone—even a schmuck who isn’t giving you your allotted speaking time—is unlikely to endear you to a teacher’s heart since that kind of behavior can affect the whole class negatively.

Yesterday was a delight because everyone from audience to co-presenters was generous and understanding as we did our best to stay on track and on time, even though we didn’t entirely succeed. I’m a teacher who researches fun in learning and I appreciate experiences that remind me of the importance of other people in helping make learning of any kind fun or a drag. On a recent episode of the television show, Community, Troy (Donald Glover) said to Britta , “You’re more of fun vampire because you don’t suck blood, you just suck.” It’s much better to be someone who infuses activities with joy than someone who sucks the joyful spirit from the room.

The occasional bit of ill humor or grouchiness is understandable, but are you generally fun to work with or are you a drag?

I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.
• Charles R. Swindoll

* They could have left in a huff, but on this day, they’d driven their snit to work. And since a snit is a fit of temper and a huff is a peevish spell of anger, snit seems to fit their behavior more closely. See how gracefully I work a vocabulary lesson into this post?

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2 comments

  1. As a graduate student, I’ve recently had a run in with one of my classmates who was a bit of a hog. Even though I worked extensively on the project, staying up late hours with her over the phone, I could barely get a word in. She completely went off-script, but I hide my displeasure well, knowing that acting on my gut instinct would have a determintal effect on our grades. Besides, I try to look at it as if I am presenting to an organization. Afterward, we had a talk, and all was right the world. Still, I hope I never have to work with her again.


    • Speaking as a teacher and as a human being, I’m glad you were able to conceal your displeasure. Unfortunately, even though it’s tempting to show your frustration, it does affect the audience and thus makes everything else that happens ineffective. I can generally tell what’s happening (and the class probably can too).

      I worked for many years successfully with a partner doing hundreds of presentations, but I’ve also tried other partnerships that didn’t work at all, primarily for the very reasons you articulated.

      Thanks for sharing. W-OZ



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