Years ago I was asked to teach a summer school science class to a group of eighth graders.
Because many had failed a similar course during the school year, more than sixty students signed up.
Another teacher was brought in to help. His name was John, and we hit it off right away.
John was hilarious.
After a test, he would put on hip-hop music and break dance in front of the class. He was terrible, but the students loved it. Many would join him and mimic his nerdy gesticulations.
John and I laughed our way through most of the summer, and along the way discovered we had a lot in common.
We held similar philosophies on learning and both believed in the power of enjoying school. In fact, John believed so strongly in this leveraging power that he didn’t use a classroom management plan. (More on that in a moment.)
John and I split the students into two classrooms but worked together most of the time. We scheduled half a dozen field trips, planned loads of cool experiments, and committed to having as much fun as we could.
In fact, having fun was our top priority.
There is no getting around the fact that students who are happy to be in school, learn and behave better than those who don’t. It makes perfect sense, yet many teachers miss this simple truth.
The Power Of Fun
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know how important it is to have a classroom management plan that includes a clear set of rules and a willingness to enforce them.
When this plan is combined with a learning environment that students are excited to be part of . . . well, you have the keys to the kingdom.
My first week teaching with John underscored just how powerful creating a fun learning experience is.
I was watching him as he was showing a group of students how to straighten a coat hanger for their rocket’s launching pad (we were teaching physics), when a few boys standing several feet away started giggling among themselves.
John looked up and yelled, “Hey, knock it off! I’m showing you something really cool and you’re missing it.” They said they were sorry and joined the group.
It occurred to me in that moment that John was teaching without a net (i.e., no classroom management plan). Although he was quick to correct students who interfered with learning, he didn’t seem to have any specified rules or consequences.
After school that day, I asked him about it. “Hey John, don’t you use a classroom management plan?”
“Nah,” he said, “but I probably should. My students get too loud and sometimes I have to raise my voice, but I never have any real behavior problems.”
And it was true.
Despite having a room full of students who were there primarily because of poor behavior, his class was well behaved.
His system, however, wasn’t perfect.
John wasted a lot of time and energy reminding students of this and that and asking for quiet so he could speak—which could have been avoided if he had had a classroom management plan.
But it was undeniable that he had very few instances of bad behavior.
And therein lies the lesson.
John was so much fun, and his lessons so interesting, that his students would have done anything to be a part of his class, including behaving in whatever manner he deemed acceptable—however unspecified that was.
Make Fun A Priority
Adding some fun to your classroom isn’t difficult. It doesn’t take a lot of pre-planning and you don’t need any special talent. It just takes a willingness to make it a priority.
Schedule learning games, tell stories, be your silly self, and try to bring a spirit of fun to (almost) everything you do.
Oh, and make a fool out of yourself once in a while.
Your students will appreciate it, and you’ll add more leverage to your classroom management plan.
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