Home > A Level, KS3, Maths, Pedagogy, Teaching > Enjoyment in the classroom

Enjoyment in the classroom

Over the weekend my twitter feed was lit up by a debate around enjoyment in the classroom. It was good to hear some opposing views and made me reflect on my own views around enjoyment, so I decided to set a few out here.

One of the views I hears was (and I paraphrase) “Enjoyment is not important to progress, hard work is”. I disagree, I remember when I finished my first postgraduate study and worked as a temp for a while, one of the jobs I took was a rather dull data input role. I was a fairly hard worker, but boredom often crept in and i didn’t get too much done. There was another chap, Neil, who was also a temp on the job and he came up with a game, the game was to see who could do the most each hour. It made it fun and we got really competitive. Our productivity increased. I think that if you want pupils to work hard in lessons, you need to be doing something they can gather enjoyment from. If they are bored, they will not work hard; they will procrastinate and avoid work. Enjoyment and hard work are not mutually exclusive events, they are intertwined. I find that if I enjoy a lesson, the pupils tend to enjoy it and they therefore put more effort in. If I’m bored, they will no doubt become bored, disengaged and do less work.

I also heard the view (paraphrased again): “You can’t expect them to enjoy it is it’s a subject that isn’t enjoyable”. I misinterpreted this at first and questioned the poster around why they would become a teacher of a subject they didn’t enjoy, but further discussion let me understand that he didn’t mean the subject wasn’t enjoyable, but perhaps a topic. This struck home for me a little, as there are a few topics that I find a little dull that we have to teach on the syllabus. (Numerical methods, such as Trial and Improvement and iteration, and some data topics – I prefer the more abstract topics associated with pure maths….)  It got me thinking about my classes and what they enjoy. My low ability year sevens LOVE algebra. (Honestly, I’m not making it up.) When we do shape or data topics they get upset and ask “can we learn more Algebra?” I have thought long and hard about this and think the reason for it must be because I love algebra. It MUST be my enthusiasm for the topic that comes through and rubs off on them. My year 11 class also like algebra best, and have a dislike for data. It MUST be my own opinions on topics rubbing off. My Year 13 further maths class love Complex Numbers, Differential Calculus and Matrix Algebra, but hate numerical methods. The same as me! This has given me cause to look at the way I teach the topics I dislike. I need to put on a show, I need to teach them as if I love them, to gain the same level of love from the pupils as the topics I love, which will in turn produce the same level of work as they put in to said topics.

Lessons need to be enjoyable for all concerned. If you are teaching, and not enjoying the lessons, you will go mad. If the pupils are not enjoying the lessons, they will become bored, do no work, not learn anything and fail to make progress. One last paraphrased quote from the twitter debate: “Enjoyment should not come at the cost of progress” – It shouldn’t, I totally agree, but I feel that enjoyment is the best tool to secure progress. Enjoyment and progress are complementary.

In the words or Samuel Johnson: “All intellectual improvement arises through leisure”.

  1. February 10, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    This is another interesting post.
    On one hand, I feel that the most important thing is not enjoyment; it is that students achieve. Sometimes students might not enjoy something but do well in it. I am uneasy about the fact that students can sometimes have a great time but learn precious little. I just did a pupil voice survey and asked them for their ‘most memorable lesson’. Often this was one that was fun/funny but was rarely the one where I saw them make most progress. (For most of one class, it was the lesson where the PGCE student gave them chocolates!)
    However, I can see that there is a definite link between the teacher’s passion for the subject and the students’. I see this in my year 8’s real enjoyment of Shakespeare. But then, this could be attributed to the fact that they are succeeding in analysing a challenging text.
    I also can’t get away from the fact that a classroom with no ‘fun’ isn’t a pleasant place to be and I certainly don’t want to spend the next 30 years without the odd lesson where I put a hat on.

    • February 10, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      Cheers for the comments Mark, and very eloquently put. I can see the worry in enjoyment taking over from achievement, but I think done correctly then they are complementary. They were part of the same “Every Child Matters” strand: “Enjoy and achieve”.

  1. October 16, 2013 at 10:28 pm

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