School is not a fun house

I get a bit testy when I read tweet after tweet about making lessons fun.

I’m not opposed to having fun.

I’m not even opposed to having fun in class.

I simply think that instead of trying to make lessons fun, teachers ought to aim for lessons that create what  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called flow, the state of engagement that produces deep satisfaction even when the activity is difficult.


Part of the reason for my peculiar perspective grows from my own experience.

I’ve spent much of my adult life writing instructional materials that no one would read unless they were required to as part of their job. If it’s possible to make learning how to install steam turbines fun, I’ve not discovered how to do it.

The best I can do when I write instructional materials is make the writing so clear that the reader can concentrate on applying the information.

To put it another way, my job as a writer is to keep the instruction from interrupting the flow of learning.

I bring that same attitude to the classroom.

The subjects I teach—nonfiction writing and the teaching of nonfiction writing—are not fun topics. They are hard topics to master. They are not fun.

I can’t make them fun.

The best I can do as a teacher is to keep from interrupting the flow as students learn.

And if the class has a few laughs together in the process, that’s icing on the cake.


Photo Credit, David Niblack,



Filed under Public schools

2 responses to “School is not a fun house

  1. Susan Bedingfield

    My exact philosophy. I am a teacher not an entertainer. I love your blog.


    • Linda Aragoni

      Thanks, Susan. I confine my entertaining to presenting material in ways that make students go home and say, “You won’t believe what she did today!”


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