What it Means to Make Teaching FunMaking education fun can be difficult, if only because it's hard to define what it means to be fun. As a teacher, what you consider fun might be significantly different than what your students consider fun. Administrators, for their part, might have their own individual definitions of fun that can clash with those of the faculty. Instead of looking at the subjective concept of fun, it might be better to start by defining what it means to have fun when teaching.
The first thing to acknowledge is that there are no two 'fun' classrooms that are actually alike. Every teacher has his or her own strengths, and trying to copy those of another educator is really a fantastic way to fail. Instead, it might be better to look at fun as something that's gained by all parties involved - a type of joy found in learning that motivates the teacher to bring his or her A-game and that motivates students to love the subject. Fun, then, is something that you can create rather than some unattainable goal that exists in the ether.
We should also note that fun, in this case, is something that works alongside traditional education rather than replacing it outright. Fun should be a component part of the classroom experience, not the entirety of the experience. Is it fun to grade papers or to write out student notes when report cards are due? Probably not. These tasks are still important, though, and they cannot be ignored. The creation of a fun atmosphere has to be balanced with the work that's necessary to keep classrooms functioning efficiently and to help students learn as well as possible.
How it Benefits TeachersIf we're going to look at changing the paradigm of teaching to make fun a primary goal, it's probably a good idea to stop and think about how making this change will benefit teachers. At a very basic level, the answer is obvious - a classroom that feels fun is one that's going to help with teacher burnout and that makes each day pass by a little more quickly. Creating a fun environment simply makes life a little more pleasant for everyone involved, and that alone is worth pursuing. After all, keeping teachers happy is something that most will agree is a good thing.
It's also valuable to have fun because joy actual sparks more meaningful learning. If you think back to your own school days, the classes that you remember the most fondly were likely those in which you had the most fun. It's not that the teachers held parties every day, but that you were in an atmosphere that made learning more than just hard work. If you can have fun while you're teaching, your students will follow your lead and many will get to a place in which learning becomes much more entertaining. This, in turn, helps students to become more receptive to learning.
Having more fun can also help teachers get back to the core of why they got into the field in the first place. No one becomes an educator to administer endless tests or to scold students for failing to turn in work. Instead, most get into the field because they honestly love what they're doing and they want to make a difference. If you can bring a little bit of fun into your classroom, you'll have a much easier time getting in touch with the teacher who you always wanted to be.
How to Be FunSince we know that having fun is beneficial, we need to figure out how we can have fun in a realistic way. Simply put, there are things that still need to get done in the classroom and those things can't be ignored. We're going to have fun, of course, but within certain bounds. Figuring out what you can do to be a little more fun is often the best way to figure out your limits at the same time.
A good place to start is with your attitude. As a teacher, you should obviously be a role model and you need to keep control of your class. Once you establish a rapport, though, you should absolutely feel free to loosen up just a little bit. Try some appropriate humor and try to relate to your students as a human being. You certainly have to keep a certain amount of distance as a professional, but don't be afraid to present a slightly more informal persona.
Next, try to stop and think about what you're actually trying to teach your students. Is there a more effective way to teach your students than using the textbook? Are there skills that could be better taught through movement and interaction than rote memorization. Being a fun teacher often involves doing a bit of extra prep work, but the attitude change in your students is more than worth the effort.
Finally, it's wise to stop and think about the most appealing parts of your subject. How can you push those aspects while still meeting your state-wide standards? What kind of fun facts and clever tricks can you show your students in order to instill a love of learning? Try to think about what you can do to hit those topics that might not be mandated, but that can really capture the imaginations of your students.
Walking a Fine LineWhile being a fun teacher is good, it is wise to remember that you have to walk a very fine line. Being fun and having fun do have to come second to the necessity of teaching. If you're working so hard on having fun that you're not properly educating your students, you are obviously not prioritizing things correctly. You have to make sure that you're still meeting your basic goals any time you want to try something new, and having more fun in the classroom is no different.
Try to remember that, ultimately, having fun isn't just about you. If you're trying an activity and it doesn't land with your students, it might not be a waste of time but it probably shouldn't be repeated. You are ultimately trying to cultivate a mode that's more conducive to both your own enjoyment of your profession and your students' enjoyment of the classroom, so don't force things that aren't working. Keep your focus on connecting with your students when you try to make changes in order to ensure that you'll be able to secure the right kind of classroom atmosphere.
Making teaching a little more fun benefits everyone. It helps you to embrace the parts of teaching that you've always loved and it creates an atmosphere in which students are given a real chance to embrace their own potential. If you're willing to put in the effort and present a more joyful version of your own classroom, you'll soon find that your teaching experiences themselves will become much more pleasant.