The sixth-graders in Mr. Shea's class at Plymouth Community Intermediate School recently wrote to John Silber, Massachusetts's Board of Education chairman, giving him their ideas on how to improve the state's less-than-excellent schools.
"I think that it's more with getting the students involved with what the teachers are trying to teach," one student said. "We can learn more from doing fun activities than we can from sitting in class doing worksheets and reading from text books."
Fun? What's fun got to do with it?, came the response. "You felt students should learn because they wanted to, not because they had to," Mr. Silber wrote the class. "[But] it is important to remember that there are many things in life we have to do, and not all of them are necessarily amusing."
Fair enough. Lots of things in life aren't fun. And memorizing facts has its place. But the Plymouth students weren't saying, "You can make the schools better if you keep us always amused and entertained." They were saying, "You can make the schools better if you involve us." In other words, if you make us interested in what we're learning. Usually, that involves more than grammar lessons written on a chalkboard. The students gave the example of learning about Julius Caesar by designing an ad campaign for "Dictator For Life." That was fun. And they learned something too.
Children should learn because they want to, not just because they have to.