Learning for Pleasure, Seriously.

It’s been about a year since joining Twitter. I have met hundreds of passionate, student-focused teachers who are ardent about education today. Reading their blog posts and engaging in conversations about teaching practices, our education system and about today’s learning cultures have made me a different teacher.

Yes, it’s all Twitter’s fault 🙂

All kidding aside, today has been declared a National Blogging for Real Education Reform promoted by ASCD and AASA. It’s not that I have anything revolutionary to add to many voices, but I did want to join my colleagues everywhere who are blogging today for a real change. I do believe that a real change will happen through the voices of the people who believe.

Education Reform – Why and What?

Sitting with my 8th grade students, I asked the questions, “If you had power to change the way you learn, what would you change? And what role does arts education play in our community and does it serve to shape the overall education?”

The following words are from my students. The comments in parenthesis are students’ heartfelt reasons:

We need a nap/rest time during the day. Learning can’t happen when I’m so tired. (I often go to bed at 9 PM).

How about making classes in a virtual community, or talking classes online school? (I want to see what kind of person a teacher would be in a virtual world. I’d want to follow her/him around there).

I wish there was less memorization & more meaningful learning (I’m horrible with dates).

I think people learn differently. It’d be nice if teachers see the differences. (I’m a visual learner).

There should be less rules  – (What’s the point of blocking sites that we all know how to get around? The Websense blocks even the teacher-approved sites. Shouldn’t we learn to use the web more responsibly?)

On Music and Art

Music and Art classes are the only times when we can be creative.

I wish we had more time to create.

Why Do Their Opinions Matter?

I believe

my students are serious about learning.

My students did not blame the teachers, or the education system, but expressed that they felt like they were stuck with the “this is how it is” mentality. They also admitted that they needed to be more responsible for their education.

I say a lot of what my students were saying is right.

Learning should be meaningful. And anything that is excellent takes time. In this poignant New York Times article, America and the ‘Fun’ Generation the writer makes a great distinction about achievement over excellence and fun over pleasure. I can’t help, but feel for my students who are pushed to achieve high marks for core classes. There is no pleasure (or hint of fun) in what they do.
If we do not consciously create a space for students to explore their ideas and create anything, we will only produce students who will just do, do, do. What are they exactly becoming by being these busy bodies? Does it really surprise us when this generation gets easily bored?

Obviously, the answer to education reform does NOT lie in all-arts based education. But what needs to happen is that all of the adults, including parents, teachers, administrators, and the Department of Education, need to work together to reexamine our decisions for our young people. What develops the young in mind, body and character? How do we teach excellence? How do we allow creativity to happen?

Did you know that critical thinking, conflict resolution, collaboration and communication are just a few skills us arts teachers teach every day while teaching our specific fields? They aren’t very different than what language arts or physical education teachers teach, are they?


The most experienced and renowned composers coming together to work on a collaborative composition. Their purpose is to create a beautiful symphony for our youth. This work is going to be epic. This monumental opus involves multiple choirs, orchestras, ensembles, soloists, and conductors. A remarkably simple, but beautiful motif appears throughout the movements.

If you and I can create this simple, beautiful motif for learning, I think we can create a great “symphony” worth hearing.

3 thoughts on “Learning for Pleasure, Seriously.

  1. How do we advocate for students? How do we give them a voice in oir schools? At The Quest conference a student asked the panel How will you ensure teachers use or permit students to use the technology that’s already in our schools? That question had me thinking about the way I need to advocate for all learners in my building. I’m thinking about how.
    On behalf of your students I thank you for giving them a voice and an audience for their thinking. Keep blogging and getting others to reflect on their choices.

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