When most look back to their time in school, they find similar memories: long rows of clumsy tables, uncomfortable chairs, a teacher’s monotone voice in front of the classroom, the quiet yawns of classmates, slowly but surely closing your eyes… Hey, wake up! Your school memories could have been something else.
Researchers and educators have already figured out that sitting quietly, and alone, doesn’t contribute to one’s ability to learn very efficiently. Of course, we still need some individual time for our own thoughts and quiet time for certain things, but teaching methods of the past shouldn’t be the only ones used in schools today. In the working world, we have already come a long way from assembly lines and workplaces made up of rows of offices with shut doors, and improvements are still on their way. However, when it comes to schools, this progress isn’t happening fast enough, and too many are clinging to methods of the “good old days”.
When I started my own career as a primary school teacher, I became filled by doubts about these ancient beliefs. I felt sorry that my pupils had to stay seated all day long, filling in their old-fashioned notebooks with soon-to-be-old information. Those bored faces, sore backs and tapping feet reminded me of my own time in school and suddenly, I wanted to do things differently. I asked myself one question: What am I usually doing when I’m having fun learning?
For me fun was always found through learning in groups and particularly through physical activity. With this in mind, I was fortunately able to test this new way of teaching, and learning with my pupils.
Before long, my doubts and concerns were replaced with ideas and answers – but it was a bumpy start, and I quickly realized that finding new ways to teach meant going back to the “classroom” myself. Teaching without books or a blackboard was frightening in the beginning and believe me, using monkey bars and other outdoor facilities during my lessons made me feel the way Mr. Edison most likely did while discovering his famous lightbulb.
More than nine hundred attempts, several litres of sweat and dozens of hours of brainstorming gave both me and him our own personal goals: he got some light and gave it to us, and over a hundred years later, I discovered my way of offering light to the kids I teach every day, by helping them find fun in learning.
We all know that our world needs co-operative, flexible and self-confident individuals and future employees. However, sitting quietly in dim classrooms while being spoon-fed information isn’t the way forward.
If we support our children and teach them to work together today, we can be quite sure that they will carry this spirit into their adult lives and careers. If we want them to solve future problems and challenges, we should provide them with the skills they will in fact need – and they should be taught in the way our future leaders are more able to learn them: by letting them be active, question, cooperate and most importantly, have fun.
Believe me, the last one isn’t the enemy of learning – it’s actually our key for success. Therefore, anyone who dares to succeed in life should dare to have fun while learning one’s future skills. I am quite positive that this involves all of us and is worth trying.
Sari Kontra (M.Ed.) is a 27-year-old school teacher who would rather take her students outdoors to the monkey bar than stay and teach in a traditional class room environment. Kontra believes that by incorporating physical activity and new forms of functionality into our teaching, we can tackle many of today’s challenges in the field of education.