The words happy and fun are dirty words in school. The other day a student told me and another teacher that we were the “fun team.” For a split second I thought obviously we are not working them hard enough…we need more “rigor.”
In many cases fun has been removed from the curriculum. You can see that many believe that you don’t learn while having fun, learning has a look to it…doesn’t it? I have pondered this before. I have even been told that what I wear will result is a classroom that is not serious enough for learning to occur. Learning has a look to it. Kids sitting, serious faces, teacher dressed up in front.
Creating a classroom in which smiling kids are the goal is probably not the path to happiness. Happy kids also cry, grimace, get frustrated, and sometimes want to quit. My happiest days are not the ones filled with the most smiles, but the ones in which I have made a difference, ones in which I feel as though I have accomplished something I previously did not know was possible. On those days smiles usually do not come during the process, but afterwards.
I read this today:
Most students — whether A students, C students, or failing ones — have lost their zest for learning by the time they reach middle school or high school. In a recent research study, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyl and Jeremy Hunter fitted more than 800 sixth- through 12th-graders, from 33 different schools across the country, with special wristwatches that provided a signal at random times of day. Whenever the signal appeared, they were to fill out a questionnaire indicating where they were, what they were doing, and how happy or unhappy they were at the moment. The lowest levels of happiness, by far, occurred when they were in school and the highest levels occurred when they were out of school playing or talking with friends. In school, they were often bored, anxious or both. Other researchers have shown that, with each successive grade, students develop increasingly negative attitudes toward the subjects taught, especially math and science. As a society, we tend to shrug off such findings.
Made me wonder if I hooked my kids up to special wristwatches what would I have discovered? There certainly were not many smiles during the last week. Were they happy? Is this what happy looks like?
I am not a fan of people saying that schools should prepare you for life. There should be more to it. Schools should be life, the life we want our kids to have, to be a part of, the life we want them to create upon graduation. What if schools had a more grandiose purpose, what if schools became something more and life reflected schools instead of the other way around?
When I hear the architects of the common core standards speak, and read what their goals were, I can’t help think why we are allowing big money to dictate what we should be doing with kids to get them ready for life. We are not getting them ready for life,we are getting them ready for “them.” At what point do people just pause and say, there are some things really wrong with the world today and I don’t want my kids to be ready to join in, but to change it. Right now there is a big push to have creative, innovative kids. Why. Who does this benefit? What if the big push was to build community, diplomacy, empathy, authenticity. I bet innovation and creativity would come along for the ride. That creativity and innovation might not be used to become the next inventor of some disposable electronic device for a billion dollar company, but to leave the world just a little bit happier.
Are your kids happy?
How do you know?
Why not ask them?