Friday, November 16, 2012

The Mary Poppins Principle

Here is the description of the water aerobics class I like to attend: "Get fit with this challenging water workout!  Improve strength and cardiovascular endurance without the impact on your joints.  Burn up to 400 calories."

I have participated during different days and hours under the tutelage of five different instructors. They all knew the content. They used similar teaching strategies and curriculum.  Yet one stands above all the others so much that I now look at the calendar to make sure she is teaching before I don my dreaded swimsuit and make myself go.  

The difference?  She makes it fun.  People who attend her class want to be there.  We enjoy our time together.  We work hard and rarely glance at the clock to see how much time is left.  It is obvious that she enjoys what she is doing.  Her attitude and energy are contagious, causing us to enjoy what we are doing as well.

I can't help but think about how this might relate in our classrooms.  We have district, state, and even national standards to meet.  We have resources we must use.  But if we really love being there every day, love the students we've been blessed with, are passionate about the content and the benefits of what we are imparting to our students, they can't help but love being there, too.

We laugh often in my room.  We infuse fun whenever possible, whether it's pretending to be ninjas as we move down the hall, or playing Mrs. Sabo Says during brief transitions. When it's time to clean up at the end of the day, we do it to music, ending with a brief dance party before settling down for one last story or poem.

Many years ago, Bob Sherman wrote a song for Mary Poppins that has become my fun mantra for life.  Do you remember how "A Spoonful of Sugar" starts?

"In ev'ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game."

I'm not na├»ve enough to think that everything we do is going to be fun, especially when hard work is involved.  But I think there is a principle here worth internalizing.  A spirit of fun is valuable and infectious.  If it improves motivation and engagement for our students, like it does for my friends and me at the gym, it's worth getting our fun on!