Why You Must Never Confuse Fun And Hard Work

Smart Classroom Management: Why You Must Never Confuse Fun And Hard workHere at SCM we believe in bringing a spirit of fun to your classroom every day of the week.

We believe in smiles and laughter, silly dances and funny accents.

We believe in amusing stories, engaging activities, and enjoying students with no strings attached.

Fun provides an effortless way to build rapport and capture interest.

It awakens the mind and soothes the soul. It motivates and inspires.

It’s a surefire conduit through which your students will look forward to your class.

It also gives your classroom management plan the dissuasive power to protect your classroom from disruption and disrespect.

But fun is merely a tool.

Although real and wonderful, it’s a tool that opens the door to learning. It isn’t learning itself—at least, it shouldn’t be most of the time.

You see, the danger in trying to make every lesson an inflatable bounce house is that you send the message that if it isn’t fun, then it doesn’t have value and therefore isn’t worth doing.

It’s a message our students are already getting 24/7 from the world around them.

Academic rigor entails deep thought, study, and reflection. With excessive television, video games, text messaging, social media, and the like conspiring to shorten attention spans and weaken observational power, we must provide the counterpoint.

Fun and humor and dynamic teaching provide the way in. But once we’re in, it’s time for serious learning.

Your job is to provide world-class instruction, to emote, mimic, and dramatize, to bring the curriculum to life for your students . . . and then turn responsibility over to them.

Do your part and do it well. Then step aside and let your students do theirs. Let them ruminate, converse, and connect. Let them struggle and overcome.

Let them fail and succeed. Let them wrestle with the challenges you place before them with only reluctant additional support.

Increase independent and group learning time to build stamina and deepen learning. Allow them to develop grit, tenacity, and perseverance.

Prepare them not just to get through the day without skinning their knee or bruising their ego, but for life ever after.

When we try to compete with the fast-paced world, when we continue to abbreviate lessons and shrink independent work time, our students lose.

They can’t sit still and listen. They can’t concentrate for longer than a two-minute YouTube video. They can’t think critically or stay the course through difficult conundrums.

It also hinders them from enjoying many of the greatest pleasures in life—distraction-free conversation, imaginative play, an afternoon with a book.

Although our students come to us with varying levels of attentiveness, they can all improve. The idea that they have a fixed ability of which we can do little about is hogwash.

This does, however, take pushing the envelope. It takes exercising and taxing mental muscle. It takes preparing them to be interesting, to look people in the eye, to have meaningful discussion.

It takes thinking, writing, studying, and conversing for prolonged periods of time. It takes hard work.

This puts the onus on you, of course, to present compelling lessons, to be interesting yourself, to bring enough fun and passion to your classroom to open the door, to get them to sit up, take notice, and lean in.

But the rewards are no less than a productive, well-behaved class who can’t wait to get to school every day.

Who leave your classroom nine months later changed, transformed, altogether different than when they first arrived.

PS – I’m hard at work on a new book that includes how to engage students in a way that is natural and effortless. The book will be released in spring 2016.

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8 Responses to Why You Must Never Confuse Fun And Hard Work

  1. Debra Barbre September 26, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Interesting you should say this. I’ve been struggling with the idea that when I add fun (or do or say something humorous to my students) it is much harder to get them to settle into work. It’s as if I turn on the “play time” switch and transitioning back takes a firm hand. Some of my students are not mature enough to recover quickly and get down to work.

    I like the fun atmosphere of my class. It’s part of who I am and the teacher I want to be. But I also want rigor. That balance has been hard with my ninth graders.

  2. Willow September 27, 2015 at 7:20 am #

    Hahaha Debra – it’s funny I just had a similar problem with my 1st graders. I teach music so there can be a lot of activity and moving around in my classroom, when we’re dancing and stuff. We might be moving around in ways that are fun and silly, but I think the thing is even when that’s happening, the kids still have to be held to the expectations you have made for those situations in your classroom management plan. That helps things stay under control, I think.

    I agree with the premise behind this article but there’s a couple of things I wonder if you really mean.

    “You see, the danger in trying to make every lesson an inflatable bounce house is that you send the message that if it isn’t fun, then it doesn’t have value and therefore isn’t worth doing.” I think it is ok to give the message, if it isn’t fun, why do it? Think about it, there are so many people who box themselves into professions they hate, and why? Take teaching for example! The school I used to work at, there were teachers there who were just so miserable. This breeds an atmosphere of discontent, demoralizes students…now I’m at a place where the teachers really love their jobs and the building is so much happier, the kids are happier. And they are learning! Oh my gosh, they are doing so well.
    Why do those teachers keep teaching when they are so unhappy? For a paycheck? Hey, I think, if you are going to have less money, but you’ll be happier…don’t stay in your job!

    I think the real thing is, it’s not so much that fun and hard work shouldn’t be confused – it’s that through having fun and being imaginative as teachers, we can teach that HARD WORK can BE FUN. Can BE REWARDING.

    I think my job IS hard work. But I also think it’s fun!!

  3. Jennifer September 27, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    In the past, I’ve felt like I’m suppose to be a dog and pony show and that I’m at school to entertain kids, not to teach them anything. Sometimes, learning is work. I so appreciate this article and I intend on sharing it around school! Such great advice! Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin September 27, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

      You’re welcome, Jennifer! Glad to hear it.


  4. Diana Nusbaum September 28, 2015 at 4:49 am #

    When I saw the title, I said, “WHAT?” Then, I read it and absolutely agree! While training, coaching, and mentoring new teachers, I have found that helping them distinguish between “fun” and “fluff” is one of our greatest challenges. The key to this article is the point about “fun” being the conduit and tool to relevant and rigorous instruction and “student as worker” learning. When the “fun” of my jump start activity, for example, is over, my passion for the topic continues, and that along with my hand signal ensures a quick and smooth transition to the heart of the topic. Peer observation of teachers who have mastered this is a powerful and helpful way for new teachers to learn just how to incorporate fun without losing control or watering down content. Thanks for this article!

    • Michael Linsin September 28, 2015 at 6:49 am #

      You’re welcome, Diana! Keep up your excellent work.


  5. Greg October 3, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    I can’t wait for the book, Michael! I volunteer myself to read an advanced copy and write a great review on Amazon.?

    • Michael Linsin October 3, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

      Happy to do it, Greg! Email me in April and I’ll get you a copy.