This morning on my drive into work, a song came on that I hadn’t heard in a long time, so I turned the music up and sang along at the top of my lungs. And it felt great.
This got me thinking about all of the little mundane tasks that are part of day-to-day life and how many of those little moments could be made better by incorporating a surpise element of fun.
This is how Kindergarten works. Kids learn their letters and letter sounds with songs. They learn how to take care of each other and their school with fun sayings and movements. They learn math by putting their hands on colorful manipulatives. They learn through play.
In fact, we all learn through play and yet play has gotten a bad reputation in the world of school. Sadly, the word “play” as it pertains to learning only gets more and more controversial the further students move throughout their K-12+ education.
Perhaps we don’t understand PLAY and what it does for the brain. Perhaps we believe that only when we behave in a very serious, quiet manner, that learning is happening at a high level. But I would venture to say that it’s just the opposite. Real learning looks many different ways. It can sometimes look loud and messy. It can sometimes be chaotic and colorful.
So, this got me thinking further about why. About why so many of us in the upper grades see school as something that must be quiet and serious. And then, I got to thinking about some of the staff, department meetings, and professional development sessions I’ve attended over the years.
Many of these meetings were quiet and serious and much more “sage on the stage” than interactive. In her book, Measuring It, by Stephanie Malia Krauss, she says that “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” Such a powerful statement with many tentacles. But as it pertains the role of the teacher, it’s very difficult to make a meaningful changes in our instructional practices if we haven’t experienced what that change looks like, sounds like, and FEELS like.
So for those of us planning professional development, we have a big responsibility to model what school and learning can be. Too often, we stand in front of teachers preaching “involving students in their learning” “chunking the content” “brain breaks” “small groups” “reflection time” and you name any other instructional practice, and yet teachers have been quietly sitting and getting from us, silently suffering. When doing so, we send the message that this is the “one true right way” to learn and all too often, teachers ignore their teacher gut and what they believe is right, in pursuit of what they believe the powers that be want to see.
I’ve heard countless stories this summer of teachers having a blast with kids and kids having a blast in their summer school classes. And while sure, there are often no “state tests” for summer school, there is the belief that school should be FUN because it’s summer.
But why should fun be limited to the summer? Why shouldn’t we enjoy every single day of our lives? Truly. Why not?
Life is hard enough as it is. Why make it harder by making it more miserable than it needs to be? Because fun does great things for our brain.
For instance, when I was listening to that oldie in the car this morning, and I turned the radio up and sang along. I also started to get curious. I got curious about the year that song came out, whether my dad liked that song at the time, whether that genre of music was big at the time and how that genre and artist have evolved.
Have you ever been watching a tv show and you found an actor compelling or the storyline super interesting and suddenly you’re researching on the internet to learn more?
Having fun and being entertained is a great way to prime the brain with curiosity for learning. Perhaps its the best way.
And that’s why summer school has been so great for many this year. Kids and teachers alike are having fun with each other, priming their brains with the good stuff.
As Walt Disney has said, “That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be twelve years old. They patronize. They treat children as inferiors. I won’t do that.”
Turn the radio up. Belt your favorite songs. Dance in your kitchen. Go on a hiking adventure at your local park. Take a painting or cooking class. Cannon ball into the swimming pool.
Dream and laugh and hug. Do what makes you feel alive.
And then bring that same energy into the spaces you serve every day.
The world is filled with enough that makes us feel heavy and overwhelmed. The work is the work – whether we enjoy it or not. So, how might we make it feel a bit more light and breezy?