Teaching Should Be Fun

Note: I’m sure my thoughts on this topic have been heavily influenced by Dean Shareski. If you don’t read his blog, go check it out. 

teaching should be fun


For the last four days, I have been back at home with my family. We have had deep conversations. All three of my kids continue to surprise me with their emotional maturity as they describe what they are going through inside as they deal with various issues at school. I think, as adults, we sometimes forget that even when kids are thriving, childhood can be tough.

While has definitely been this deep, emotional layer to our interactions, the truth is we spent most of our time having fun. We have goofed off and giggled. We have made up spoof songs and bizarre stories. We have thrown the football around and built things with Legos. If I had to quantify it, I’d say that 90% of the time was spent goofing off and 10% was spent in serious conversation.

I am convinced that being serious and being goofy are both vital. They are both profound. They are both deeply human. I think we tend to trivialize the vital role of joy when we treat it as something shallow.

I was talking to my friend, Luke Neff, about teaching. He has spent the last few years in a leadership role in his district. However, before that, he was an amazing high school teacher who created an atmosphere of creativity and engagement in his classroom.

“What was the key element that made your classroom work so well?”

“I had fun,” he said. “And I made writing as fun as possible for my students.”

Luke described something that I experienced in teaching middle school. It’s something that I continue to experience as a professor.

Teaching should be fun.

I get it. Teaching is difficult. It’s emotionally draining. But really, it’s a lot of fun. It’s the same kind of fun that I experience in fatherhood. There’s this casual side of teaching that can’t be described with any other word than “fun.” It’s what happens when you geek out on random questions that you find fascinating. It’s what happens when you let loose with goofy humor. It’s what happens when your room is filled with laughter.
By contrast, some of my worst moments in teaching occurred when I took things too seriously and tried to take a serious tone in the classroom. I rarely had an awful day in the classroom when we were also laughing.

Too often, schools view fun as a derogatory term. People describe the “fun teacher,” as the one who doesn’t take the job seriously. Fun is seen as shallow and superficial. But I disagree. I actually believe that teaching should be fun. When a teacher is having a blast, the atmosphere changes. Discipline issues decrease. Student engagement increases. You can think deeply and hit a state of flow, because you’ve hit a place of relaxed mental focus. You have a deeper relational bond. You are often in a place where you are modeling creative risk-taking.

Ultimately, that’s why I believe that teaching should be fun.

4 thoughts on “Teaching Should Be Fun

  1. Thanks for this healthy reminder John.
    Life is too short for us to be immersed in seriousness and drudgery. Learning, for the most part, is fun. Just think of the impact on students when educators embrace and model a learner's first perspective. I am hooked on Russell Ackoff's concept of the upside down classroom – students teaching others what they are learning, teachers learning all they can about their students so they can facilitate their progress. I thoroughly appreciated your perspective, and I enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Fun! That is what I love about my career choice! I teach Middle school so there are plenty of 'moments'. I know when I am not having a good time.neither are my students and I'm going to have to surmise that the ratio of content absorption and learning go way down. Part of the fun is the sheer joy I feel when I see the light bulb light up .wehen they understand what the concept is and can use it. Teaching is always something
    New …it's always fresh and that is what keeps me looking forward to going to work every morning. When asked about retirement I have always said…when it stops being fun, then I will retire.

  3. Thank you John, this really struck a chord with me! I am having a very challenging year with my students and after reading this I believe my problem might be that I'm not having fun. They say attitudes are contagious, and that is so true. This may even be a truer statement in the world of education. If the teacher is having fun and enjoying the subject and lesson, it becomes increasingly difficult for students to know have fun. I have seen this in my own classroom, when I smile and throw out silly off the wall answers and ideas, my kids do too and the lesson becomes one that they remember and really latch on to. Fun creates an engaging memorable time for both students and teachers. I've recently started playing music for my third graders when it is time to transition into a new activity, this has been so much FUN that my students have become more efficient with transitions and are taking less time. With all of the standards, testing, and top down initiatives that teachers are bombarded with, it is easy to lose sight of having FUN in the classroom. This was a healthy reminder for me that I need to have fun with what I'm doing and teaching so that my students are more productive, and hopefully also help them with their behavior in class. Next Monday, when my students and I return from Spring Break we will have FUN!

  4. Hi John, 
    I came across your page today and feel a connection with your post regarding the inclusion of fun in the classroom. After reading “Teaching Should Be Fun” I sat for a few moments reflecting on your statements. I could not agree more with you that including fun is paramount in engaging students.  If teachers made it a priority to have a fun classroom, students would be much more engaged, learn, and we as educators would LOVE going to our job each day.  As you mentioned, when we are teaching in a fun way, discipline issues decline.  The energy that comes from having fun is contagious. My favorite days this year are the days when I put forth the energy to think of creative, fun lessons.  When I am engaged and having a good time, so are my students.  These are the days I go home and think to myself, “I am so lucky.  Being a teacher is the best.  What a FUN day.” Then there are those days where I don’t create that fun learning environment.  Perhaps I am having an observation and want everything to be perfect. Or the stress of not wanting to waste an instructional minute gets in the way.  These are the days when I go home and think to myself, “I am exhausted. That was not a fun day.” I need to remember that having fun is beneficial for students and me as the educator.  As an educator we do need to model behavior for students, which reflects an attitude of creativity, excitement for the lesson and willingness to take risks. Teachers and students could achieve greater things.  Thank you for the reminder.  I hope to finish this year out with a lot more fun in the room! 

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