Why Have Fun in Learning
Some educators advocate fun in learning, but many parents still resist doing it in schools for their kids. Where do you sit in this?
Last Christmas, we had a fun party with friends I have known for over seventy years. We shared so many memories. Some I remembered, others I could not resurrect from my memory. Still, I enjoyed all of them.
One thing that amazed me was when one of my friends got up and recited the poem, Rhodora, written by Ralph Waldo Emerson. She remembered this from our high school days. It was impressive. It left many of us in the room speechless.
That night, I asked my older sister if she remembered studying it in high school. As she is only a year older than us in school, we went through the same literature teacher. My sister started reciting it to me.
That puzzled me even further. How could my classmate and my sister remember? It was so unknown to me. Is my memory less efficient than theirs? This experience led me to ask my sister about the other poems I remembered, and she could recite more lines than I could. We reviewed some of them, and she added more lines and titles. How could this happen?
My sister was not at the top of her class. I was, and our class was brighter than hers. As I thought about this, I remembered how my sister spent her high school days. She always had fun while I studied, memorized, and hated what I was doing. Why did I do that? Our parents never forced us to study hard. I was the one who was so driven. I did it without even an awareness of what I was doing. I kept at it as I had been doing this for years, and there was no way I would give up now. Never once did it occur to me to question or think about it. I continued until I finished high school and got into the top university. Once there, I gave up studying hard. I was tired of it. I learned enough to pass my courses. I could get lost amidst my bright classmates and be average, not top. It felt good. I did not even bother to attend my graduation. I have my degree, and that's it.
I had close to nil awareness of what I went through. I only knew I was not too fond of it and wanted to forget it. I applied myself fully to my job and became successful. Life kept on until this Rhodora moment. The poem did not matter. The fact that I have no clue about us learning the verse hit me.
What did I do in class? I was at the top of my class, so I must have learned it. Why could I not remember? Why did my sister remember it and more of what we learned? I love poetry now, so why could I not remember those poems? I remember memorizing verses for the eulogies of important people in our town. With this memory came the feeling of disgust. I was disgusted with the whole experience.
I never enjoyed my years in school. My friends would talk about the fun they had playing. I never played. I studied.
Those were my high school years. I did everything to be at the top. I might have done it initially because I was the second child and wanted to show that I was better than my sister. Once I got to prove this, it was the expectation of everyone that I satisfied. I liked it. My parents did not push me, but everyone else expected me to stay at the top. And I did.
Thinking about it now, that was all that mattered to me then. So, I never enjoyed learning as it was always a race to the top and, once there, to protect that fortress. So, it's no wonder I could not remember the poem, whereas my sister remembered almost all the lines of the poems we learned. Even as she recited them now, I could feel how much she enjoyed them. I never had that enjoyment. I started reciting the poems aloud with her, and the two of us had so much fun that night. What fun it was when the pressure to be at the top was no longer there. As she recalled some of the highlights of our studies, I partook of her enjoyment, something I'd missed then.
It was my loss. I allowed the pressures to push me. My sister didn't. She lived that life. I lived the forces. And that made all the difference.