A LITTLE ABOUT ME
Hello. I am a teacher.a writer.an athlete.a board game geek.
I don’t think learning should be fun.
I think learning has to be fun.
In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the protagonist, Tom, is punished by his Aunt and has to whitewash a fence. As the other boys in the neighborhood pass by, Tom is able to persuade them to do the work for him. He even manages to get the boys to give him small trinkets in exchange for the privilege of whitewashing. Instead of trying to convince the boys to whitewash the fence, Tom’s tactic was to convince them they could not whitewash the fence. Tom discovered the best way to make someone want something is to make it hard to obtain.
When I think about my teaching style, I want it to mirror Tom Sawyer’s. It is creative. It was outside the box and it was effective. Did he trick the boys into doing his work? Yes. But successful teachers need to have tricks whether for classroom management, teaching English language learners (ELs), motivating students, etc.
I am not setting out to flip the education system on its end. I believe in making incremental changes; I believe in agile teaching methods. Staying flexible, adaptive, responsive, collaborative, and continuously improving and evaluating.
It is important to recognize all students learn differently and at different rates. There is no one-size-fits-all method you can apply to a classroom. And every year is a new class with a new set of challenges and for me rewards. I am an absolute nut for teambuilding. It is my Disneyland. The world has never been more connected and I cannot overstress – even to elementary students – the importance collaboration.
I do not think learning should be fun. I think learning has to be fun. One way to make curriculum fun is to make it meaningful to students. Lessons have to be engaging to everyone. Lesson planning, therefore, needs to be carefully constructed with every student in mind. The classroom itself should be unique and exude fun. I often ask myself, “Why does every elementary classroom look the same?”
Layered on top of everything I do is a game. Gamification is the concept of applying game-like design to non-game applications to make them more engaging. Video games require you spend a tremendous amount of hours to be successful and they reward you with achievements along the way. In a sense, they are using Tom Sawyer’s logic to keep you interested. In my classroom, students earn experience points that unlock classroom rewards (i.e. homework pass, water bottles at their desk, special chairs).
The best part about agile teaching methods is you change, and quickly if necessary. This may not be my exact teaching philosophy in five years or next year. But that is the point. Standards and curriculum change regularly and successful teachers need to be able to adapt.