To start my daughter on her journey to driving, we got the chance to motor to the Department of Public Safety. We decided to journey to a DPS in a small, nearby town to get her permit thinking we would avoid the crowds.
We arrived at 8:45 to find an overflowing full parking lot.
We parked and picked our way through an overgrown sidewalk around a portable building to a side entrance where about 50 people stood lined up on a covered porch. My daughter, son, and I dutifully got in line.
The silence was deafening. No one was talking.
So I started up a conversation with the person next to me. Then I walked up to the front of the line and asked how long they had been waiting. (Since 7:30!) A gentleman who overheard me talking to the guy in the front of the line started joking about the wait. The group started loosening up.
My kids and talked about leaving, but decided we would stick it out. We talked and joked around. Others who were not as strong simply gave up and left. After and hour and 15 minutes the gentleman who was at the front of the line was FINALLY let into the building.
My natural reaction was to start cheering. I was the only one.
For a few seconds.
Then others joined in. The silence we walked up to evaporated. We suddenly became a community joined in a joint goal. To get in the building!
We were doing the unthinkable. We were having fun at the DPS.
As my kids and I got into the car 3.5 hours later, I was struck by how the experience could have been so much more unpleasant. Standing outside for hours in heat of a Texas summer is nobody’s idea of a good time, but the choices we made shifted the experience to one of joy and delight. It is true that time flies when you are having fun!
Thinking about this experience naturally caused me to reflect upon my teaching practice. Our classrooms can be as dry, dull and torturous as a visit to the DPS. We have the ultimate control over our classroom environment. In this I am reminded of Ebenezer Scrooge reflecting on how his old boss, Fezziwig, could make work laborious or pleasurable. By deciding to have fun, we as teachers can make an otherwise dreaded experience one of joy and a blessing.
How can we make the mundane delightful?
- Celebrate EVERYTHING! This is not a new idea, but it is a useful one. Everyone is seated when the bell rings? Celebrate! It’s Monday? That’s a reason to have fun!
- Play a game. I love randomly having a rock, paper, scissors tournament. It takes 2 minutes-I’ve timed it-and it improves engagement.
- Delight in your students. Say hi to everyone everyday. Give high-fives or fist-bumps. Share a smile. The vibe in your room when class starts will be charged for learning.
- Embrace the silly. Don’t be afraid to look ridiculous or make mistakes. Sometimes we take ourselves way too seriously.
- Reevaluate what fun means. Having fun does not necessarily mean every moment is a party. To me fun means you’re engaged and interested or finding your task enjoyable. We can make everything fun if we try.
Ultimately, focus on enjoying the moment, your students, and the myriad of opportunities to teach children and not just a lesson. It is up to us as the educational professionals to make the experience students have in our classrooms one our students look back on with a with a positive glow. That is simple to do by adding some fun.