Taking the Fun Out of School

For a lot of kids it’s not much fun going to school these days. Many schools have cut recess. Lunch lasts twenty minutes at best. The arts, languages, physical education, and social studies all occupy  positions on the back burners. Teachers avoid project-based learning.

Taking the fun out of school is a mistake. We lose the attention and motivation of most kids once they identify school with drudgery. What’s left for teachers is to coerce students to learn. What a waste of energy! Think of the young child who will work and work to solve a puzzle, build a block skyscraper, draw a picture. We need to harness a child’s natural drive to learn  by making schools more what children want them to be. Then instead of focusing on making students learn we’ll be focused on helping them to do so.

Why don’t teachers do more of the things children like? It’s not exactly a new idea that project-based, active learning inspires students. The reason is that teachers fear taking time away from test preparation. In fact testing drives almost all of the curriculum and the decisions that are made in schools about what will be taught and what will not be taught. This administration’s attempt to fix our schools by imposing standards through the medium of testing has in fact impoverished schools.

Of course not all that happens in school can – or even should – be active and project-based. Some learning must be painstaking, detail-oriented, and done in controlled silence. Students know this. They’re willing to cooperate. They just need us to remember that they are children. They need to move. They need to laugh. They need a reasonable amount of joy in their day.

Let your local school board know what you think on this and all other issues related to education. Silence from the public is assumed to be affirmation of the status quo.

Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.