Is ‘Fun’ an Ideal Teaching Goal?

Reblogged from Education Week by Kyle Redford

I get frustrated when teachers are encouraged to make school “fun”. Go ahead and debate me, but I think “fun” is a term better used for the playground than the classroom. Teachers who promise to make school fun are like parents who want to be friends with their children. Sure, I am all for fun (and friends), but in the appropriate context. Learning can and should be engaging, exciting, compelling, stimulating, satisfying, inspiring, imaginative and even pleasurable. But fun? A teacher’s main job is to help students become more competent, confident and curious. Fun rarely delivers on those goals. Words matter. The word “fun” can trivialize the serious work related to learning and confuse teaching with entertaining.

Just to be clear, I want my students to enjoy school as much as any other teacher and I do not believe that teachers should try to convert every moment into a measurable learning opportunity. I believe in the importance of play during the school day. Likewise, being creative, passionate and enthusiastic about our teaching certainly helps to make it more effective. But the word fun aptly describes recess, end-of-day dance parties, Jeopordy quizzes, field games, and holiday celebrations — things that punctuate and support learning, but do not define it.

Let’s admit it, learning is sometimes uncomfortable. That is okay.

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