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Is School Still Fun?

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by Carole Richards

When I was in school in the fifties and sixties, there were many events and activities we students looked forward to throughout the year.  There was a yearly Halloween parade that started with the “grown-up” sixth graders marching classroom to classroom gathering the younger kids for the parade.  Then the entire school paraded around the whole block showing off our costumes and creativity.  After the parade, we returned to school for a costume party with treats.  This was an annual event that lasted an entire afternoon (imagine, a lost afternoon of learning for an exciting party).

Winter holiday time included singing carols around the tree.  Santa would visit with candy canes.  And our sixth graders performed in a holiday play with the school choir dressed in robes, carrying candles, and marching up the auditorium aisles singing as part of the play.  (The fifth and sixth graders spent most of a week out of the classroom preparing for this special performance.  Imagine a lost week of learning in the classroom.)

Every year, we attended a Cleveland Orchestra performance.  I remember sitting in box seats one year, what a treat.  There was a yearly marionette show that visited our school and each child paid a quarter to see.  Kids that couldn’t afford the quarter were slipped in anyway.  All of these where fun activities in the Cleveland city schools.

Fast forward to the early seventies.  I was teaching in the Cleveland Schools which I chose over the suburban Berea City Schools.  I wanted to give back to the schools I enjoyed so much.  My classroom was abuzz with needlepoint projects during art.  My students created projects about the world’s climate through a $100 Jennings teacher’s grant.  These students washed floors and tables and learned to organize, clean-up and work together in small groups.

When Halloween parties were outlawed, I organized a pioneer day for the entire school.  Everyone dressed up in costume.  Students churned butter and made cornbread in the ovens in the school kitchen.  My class had a Hawaiian luau.  Students came to my home to prepare the luau food.  They were studying the state of Hawaii so it was a perfect activity.

This does not mean that my students didn’t learn to read, write, compute and think.  Each student gave a speech in my fourth grade.  They learned to organize a topic and present it to the class.  My class included hearing impaired students and they also gave speeches with some specialized support from their special education teacher.

Is school still fun today?  Do students attend special events?  Do students have holiday parties?  Or is the entire school day devoted to passing the Ohio Achievement Test and the Ohio Graduation Tests? 

As a teacher, I looked forward to each day in school because there were special activities interspersed throughout the school year.  In turn, my students looked forward to school for the same reason.  One year I taught remedial reading at a parochial school.  The eighth graders complained when they had to miss my class.  These eighth graders read the Night Before Christmas with sound effects into a tape recorder.  (We didn’t have video cameras or computers then.  They had a wonderful time doing it.)

Recess is gone, gym classes are few and far between, there’s no time left for kids to be kids.  My personal observation is that students spend the majority of their time learning how to pass the Ohio’s standardized tests with little or no time for fun.  This lack of fun is in all schools … suburban and urban.  There’s is little or no time left for fun. 

Let me know if I’m wrong.  Send me your stories of fun in school.  Fun is why kids want to be in school.  If they are having fun, they are more open to learning. 

Carole Richards is president of North Coast Tutoring Services, president/director of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp at Lakeland Community College, author of RICHARDS READ Systematic Language and a frequent guest on radio and TV.  She can be reached at caroler@northcoasted.com.

 

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