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.
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.