In a post earlier this week, I explored my thinking in response to the following quote:
“It is true that education is serious and important, but we have lost the curiosity and excitement of learning and discovery.” (Kirtman and Fullan)
Today I had an experience in a classroom that returned me to this quote, and caused me to revise it a bit. (I hope the authors are OK with my revision!)
I was modeling a lesson on how to listen well to an audio version of a text. I started the lesson by playing the song “This is Me” from the recent movie, The Greatest Showman. After listening once, I asked the children a few questions (“What might this song really be about? How are you picturing the person singing this song? How might she be feeling?”). The point of the lesson was to show students how important it is to listen, and then re-listen (maybe even multiple times), to a text in order to understand it at a deeper level.
Then we switched to an audio book for some practice. I warned the kids that the voice on the audio was going to present an additional challenge to their listening skills because it was quite robotic. They seemed ready to take on the challenge, so I hit play. That’s when it started. One person started to giggle, covered his mouth, and tried to look away. Then I noticed the girl next to him. Her shoulders were bouncing up and down as she tried to contain herself. Then another, and another, until it was clearly time to stop the audio and regroup. The teacher and I were quite serious.
The teacher: “OK, that’s enough. It’s not that funny. Let’s get focused.”
Me: “I know the voice is strange, but giggling is not going to help your ability to listen.”
I hit play. The kids seemed OK at first, but then it started again. This time the giggling began in a different corner of the rug. I noticed the sweatshirt being pulled over the mouth to hide the giggles. One person, then another, and another. I paused again. This time I tried something different.
Me: “If you feel like you are going to giggle, just go ahead and quiety move back to your seat so that you are not disturbing other kids who are trying to listen.”
I hit play. Half the class got up to go back to their seats.
That got me wanting to giggle.
Yes, this was an important lesson. I wouldn’t be teaching it if I didn’t think it was important. And yes, education is serious and they do need these skills (The listening skills along with the skills needed to get yourself back on track after a giggling fit.), but the moment was funny. The teacher and I asked the students if we should just forget about today and go for a “redo” on another day. They assured us that they were ready to get themselves into a serious frame of mind and listen. We carried on with the lesson and they did a great job.
Sometimes it’s important to just laugh and enjoy the moment.
The revised quote –
“It is true that education is serious and important, but it’s essential to capture the curiosity, excitement, and joyfulness of learning and discovery.”