Five ways you can help change the education system so your children can have fun in their classrooms
There’s a reason why it’s called an educational institution. That’s because when most kids go to school, they feel like they are in jail, restricted from the fun they can have at home, in the field, or with friends. Why can’t their education be fun, too? Why must it always be structured and equalized? Why must education meet the needs of all children all the time in a diverse classroom? Why must the federal government continue to mandate changes for something they appear to be unqualified to change? How can we put the FUN back in FUNdamental education?
When I was in school, I enjoyed the ride to school on the bus. My friends were there. We joked. We gossiped. We daydreamed out the window. We talked casually about anything we wanted to discuss. Then when I got to school, the fun ended. I was made to sit in a row … alphabetically… away from my friends… near a potential bully. The day progressed through a series of subjects designed to increase my knowledge of math, English, history, science, and some arts-related topics. And yes, I did increase my knowledge, only because my grade depended on it. But where was the love of knowledge? Where was the fun of investigating new topics? Where did I fit into the overall scheme of the faulty education system?
I’m not here to rant without offering a solution. I want to suggest that the Federal Government fund programs that help children understand that learning is FUNdamental to their success as an adult. Here’s how:
- Kids like fun. I know that’s not front page news, but in addition to requiring teachers to list the goals and objectives for the day (because as a former teacher, I do think they help with the organization), teachers should be required to list one fun activity per day. That could be five minutes of playing an education-related game. It could be ten minutes of reading for fun, rather than required reading. It could be a round-table discussion about items in a suggestion box. Brainstorm with the kids what they consider to be fun and add that into the curriculum… not once a week or once a month, but every day. Don’t worry about meeting the curriculum demands. When students have FUN, they will be more eager to learn at other times.
- Kids need to move. Collectively, they have enough energy to power New York City! Plan motion time into the curriculum. Let them get out of their seats and stretch, not just for half an hour during gym class, but every hour for at least five minutes. If kids know they will be allowed to move soon, they will be more likely to achieve motionless education for a brief period. Movement is definitely FUN. (See my book for ideas: The Kinetic Classroom: Activities that Move Students to Learn.)
- Kids like to talk to other kids. They like to interact socially. Solo activities are counter-intuitive to the workforce you are preparing them to enter in a few years. Unless each of your students intends to be a computer programmer, chances are, they will need to interact with other people. Help them by scheduling one group activity per day, monitoring their ability to cooperate and schedule their time. They'll have FUN and learn more than the curriculum topic for the day.
- Kids need smiles. When you were in school, how often did your teacher smile? Kids need to know they are doing a good job. A simple smile is very effective. Each child deserves a daily dose of teacher-smile to help them feel that they are wanted and appreciated during those seven hours of institutionalization. Smiles make learning FUN.
- Kids like to explore to learn. When left to their own defenses and enough materials for guided learning, kids will learn in spite of themselves. They don’t all need to learn the same aspects of, say color separation, in the same way. Some might like to read about it, others might like to paint, still others might like to watch a video. The entire class does not need to watch the video or read the book. This, I think, is the biggest problem facing modern education. If teachers present a topic for the day, or even the next hour, and allow students to explore the materials, I think they will be surprised at the enthusiasm and the learning that ensues. Teachers have been bound by teaching to the test to justify their existence as a teacher. I recommend that we toss the standardized tests into the shredder and test individual knowledge through discussion or written reports, or any other self-guided manner of demonstrating learning. Find out how much FUN the kids had learning the topic!
Remember that morning bus ride? It has all the characteristics that will help children to learn: fun, motion, talking, smiles, and exploration. Let’s transform our schools from education factories to FUNdamental educational environments where children learn to feel that their education is the most important thing they will ever do… because, quite simply, it is FUN.
Share this article with your children’s teachers and administrators. Help the education system change from the inside out.
Renee Heiss is a retired public school teacher and author of seven books, including Where’s Green? which has an accompanying bag of learning materials for individualized exploration of the separation of colors through a prism at www.entelechyed.com.