Last night at our charter school board meeting, we honored teachers who had a hand in producing the high scores in science that our students in the upper elementary grades had received on the state test. This was especially notable, because this is a bilingual school where the teachers teach 90% of the day in Spanish. For most of these children, it was only their second year of studying in this language. On top of that, there was no science curriculum for them to follow!
“What’s the secret?” we asked one of the teachers. “How did you do it?”
“I got excited about learning. And then I played. I’m a learner too, and I learned right along with them. And the best way to do that is providing lots of hands-on learning and have fun playing as we learn.”
Wow! Could it really be that simple? Basically, the answer is yes.
In his book, “The Thread That Runs so True”, written in the 1940’s, mountain teacher Jesse Stuart had an epiphany when he saw his students learning so much through play. Play was the “thread”. He realized this was key – to make his students think they were playing while they learned the various academic subjects.
I can hear some of you saying, “That’s not life. It won’t – and can’t – all be fun. I agree. But, knowing that it’s the teacher who creates the atmosphere in a classroom, what about you? Are YOU having fun? Do you love your job? Are you finding it to be creative, challenging, stimulating, empowering, and joyful? If not, do you have the courage to ask yourself why?
There are many factors we can blame. It’s because of administration and all we have to do, common core and how many standards there are to address, scripted curriculum and how boring it is, the teacher next door who refuses to engage in team planning……and the list can go on. How can we bring….or bring back……the fun and challenge of school?
As with anything, it starts with attitude, which is something we each get to choose. “Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush – it can color any situation.” And YOU’RE the one that gets to choose the color! Exciting, no? This is such an important concept to teach. And so much of teaching is modeling. Are you getting my drift? How are we doing at modeling what we want our students to display?
I really want to be challenged and have fun at the same time in my classroom. I intentionally choose an attitude that says my classroom is a place of learning, challenge, exploration, and fun. That means it’s up to me to present the concepts in a way that students can relate to, and practice them in a manner that’s interesting and fun for students. I, personally, am up for the challenge!