Fun is underrated. Joy is the truest measure of success in learning.
You know that feeling when you finally solve the mystery, remember the idea, see the solution, hear the music? Oh, that is so good!
What if we made that feeling our priority in helping each other understand concepts and master skills?
Take a moment and imagine the most serious cause you care most about. Is it the environment, reproductive rights, economic inequality, education? Who are the experts you admire for their successes in the field? Imagine what would happen if these champions were also role-models of having a great time. What if they were consistently, observably happy and joyful in their work? What if they shared their sense of humor, or even just smiled more often?
We know that success breeds fun. Winning cures all sorts of problems. Just look at the teammates who hate each other all season long, hugging and spraying each other with champagne in the championship locker room.
But what are we doing in the meantime, while we’re working toward our goals?
The Hard Part is The Good Part
Too often we overlook the process and focus on the result.
Every rep, every mile, every experiment, every sentence, every mistake, and every failure is the good part. Those moments when we practice and improve, and occasionally stumble, those are the moments when we earn whatever success we eventually achieve.
No one but me knows how many hours I worked today, or whether I got all the way in the cold plunge and stayed there after my workout. In fact, no one but me knows whether I dedicate myself to any given task.
But I know.
And I love it.
Some elements of life don’t lend themselves to a curriculum or a lecture.
The difference between students and learners is that learners are driven to take action.
As a teacher, I can create an environment that is favorable to growth, and I can contribute content that will facilitate understanding, but that’s about it. Learning is located in the learner.
That said, no matter what I’m teaching, I have a great time doing what I do. That makes a difference to the people around me.
I don’t teach subjects. I inspire learners.
There are plenty of valid reasons in the world today for us to feel miserable. Despondent. Hopeless. If you feel that way, please know that I understand.
I don’t want to spill pixels trying to talk you out of your feelings. I have plenty of inspirational quotes, research studies, and philosophical histories if you need them, but for now I just want you to know: Your feelings are beautiful and I respect you.
That said, whatever you are thinking and feeling, I’d like to invite you to conduct a very small experiment. You won’t need to spend any money or tell anyone. Just give yourself five minutes.
Here is the entire process:
1. Take up to three minutes to brainstorm. (If you’re a planner, you can enjoy the entire 180 seconds. Some of your ideas will be pretty fun even if you don’t act on them. If you’re more spontaneous or if you get an actionable idea sooner, proceed to #2.)
2. Have fun.
You have total autonomy in how you define fun, as long as you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Close the door and do a ridiculous dance. Say something silly in a really serious tone of voice. Say the same word over and over until it doesn’t make any sense (and then teach someone else about semantic satiation – it’s also fun with friends!). There are so, so many things we can do to make today more fun.
Make pancakes with a kid who wields a spatula like a Jedi.
Just look at my daughter’s face. She. Meant. Business. I took that picture nearly 10 years ago and I hope she never loses that spark.
She will have to work to keep it, though, because because someone will tell her – and you, and me – that we should be more … something else, and less of ourselves. They’ll tell us to wipe that smile off our face and take things seriously. Or that we should look the part. Dress the part. ACT the part.
In those moments we have to remember: fun is different than frivolous. I have serious fun and nobody gets to have an opinion about my fun, because I get shit done and I am savagely good at what I do. Believe it or not, I wrote that last sentence with a deep sense of humility and honor-bound obligation. I feel a responsibility to speak up and defend fun, especially in learning, because far too many teachers and school administrators feel so beat up in today’s world that they can’t even claim their own excellence for fear that someone will tear them down. To some negative weirdos, having fun raises suspicions: You’re a high school teacher? You say you’re having fun? Are you on drugs?!?
Be ferocious. Protect your joy. You will instantly become more successful.
Seriously: Have fun.
If you’d like to have fun together, or if you’d like some Open-Source Learning strategies for having and encouraging fun, or if you’d like to have a fun argument and help me understand why everything is no fun at all, please feel free to Contact Me and let’s start the conversation!