The Bane of Education

School, AP courses, studying, classrooms. What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear these words? Fun? I highly doubt it. All these things are most definitely not fun, yet students have become accustomed to believing so because the biggest goal in their life is to get into a prestigious university. Most of my peers as well as myself started to lose track of what fun really felt like because we were so immersed in our schoolwork.  It’s sad. One day my chemistry teacher, who loves going on tangents and teaches an AP course, asked us a question that forever changed my view on school.

If you’re not having fun, then really, what are you doing? 

It was time to take a step into the unknown, the FUNknown( I am so sorry).

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When he first said those words, I was offended. I thought to myself “Dude, you teach an AP chemistry class and you’re trying to tell ME to have fun? Okay buddy.” But he was right. He was absolutely right and I only realized this when my English class participated in Global School Play Day. It felt so odd having my teacher tell the class that our assignment was literally to play and have fun. I jokingly remarked to my tablemates, “Do we get more points if we have more fun?” But in actuality, that’s the reality of what school did to me.  Everything was about grades and completing assignments and I wanted to break out of this.  During Global School Play day, playing cards with my friends and screaming and laughing and getting angry was a refreshing change of pace (and if getting angry is a better alternative, something’s wrong). It was something I needed a lot more of. But how was I supposed to have fun when school took up so much of my time and day? It seemed impossible to make school enjoyable and then it hit me. I’ve subconsciously been doing this for all my life. I’ve always been the class clown and I’ve always tried to make class what I wished it was. Whether it be throwing out random one liners or satirizing the stupid work that we had, it made class just a bit more interesting for everyone. I saw school as a scantron. The best students would be the ones to color perfectly inside the circles and the worst students would be coloring incorrectly and/or outside the circles. I saw myself as the person who colors just a bit outside the line and I’d dance inbetween the inside and outside of the circle just enough to still do well. Not all teachers I’ve had have appreciated my jokes, and I understand that. Even those who did had to draw a line at one point or another. I had to have fun while in school, but I also needed to succeed. All I had to do was stay at the brink of this line.

test-986769_1280.jpgPhoto by [cc-O] Pixabay 2015

 

My English teacher is one of the most unique characters I know. To start, he’s got no thumbs and he seems to love that about himself. He constantly makes jokes about his absence of thumbs and I knew he had confidence in himself. I knew I could laugh at his thumblessness and he’d be fine with it. I started making jokes and teasing him about it and I’d always laugh at him. This was all in good fun as I could see he enjoyed it as well. It was something so small but it made the environment a lot lighter. My tablemates would laugh and he would play along with whatever I said. Recently, I walked into class and him and I made eye contact for a split second and he said “Josh, laugh at me.” and naturally I did. He then continued “Guys, my day isn’t complete until Josh laughs at me.” and it was a great moment. Doing small things like making jokes about Mr. Ziebarth made class a lot more entertaining for myself and many others. Also, forming a relationship between teacher and guy who makes fun of him has been something I’ll cherish for a while. Have you ever seen someone give a thumbs up without having a thumb? I’ve seen someone give TWO thumbs up without having thumbs. It was a perfect way of making each and every day a little more amusing without crossing the line. He’s a great teacher and he’s not one to say something like:

” We’re going to be learning while having fun!”

First of all, this statement is an oxymoron. Or at least what follows makes it seem like one. Teachers always give this spiel about how their activities are different and how learning can be fun and brave students will retaliate by saying it’s never true. And thus teachers will passive-aggressively say  “Okay, since you guys obviously know more about teaching than I do, YOU teach the class.” Now my teacher didn’t say these exact words, but each table in our classroom was assigned to give a lesson to the class, so he basically did. Obviously I’m joking, but whether it was because he was too lazy to create a lesson plan on Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby or if he was just curious of what students wanted to do, he handed the wheel over to us and we took over. When discussing what my table’s activity would be, the first thing I shouted out was that our activity needs to actually engage students and to not be boring. The last thing I wanted was for students to be sitting there analyzing text and saying some B.S. they got off of Shmoop. After thinking for a while, my table decided that our activity would be for students to create a scene or visual representation of a topic that stemmed from our assigned chapter with their tables. Afterwards, the class would vote on which table’s picture best represented the topic they were given and the winning group received a prize. I thought it sounded pretty good, and it went pretty well too. The thing about our activity, though, was that students weren’t exactly learning. The only information they really learned was how good Ghirardelli’s chocolate was and even then, it was only the winning table. However, students still put their creativity skills to use and were forced to work efficiently in a short frame of time. I asked my friends what they thought of the activity and they all seemed to really like it.  Here’s a picture of my friends trying their hardest to make a scene about the acceptance of gender roles.

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Amidst all of this, school continued to destroy me. Project after project, test after test, and hours and hours of homework wasn’t healthy for me. I wasn’t able to really live my life because I was being held bound by schoolwork. I wasn’t getting nearly enough sleep and my weekends were no longer my weekends, they were Fountain Valley High School’s weekends. I finally reached my breaking point and I decided I couldn’t continue to live my life this way.

I decided to ease back on my schoolwork. I needed sleep more than anything and I needed to enjoy my days. I needed to have fun. I spent less time studying than I regularly would and I began to value my overall health over school. From this, I thought my grades would pay a huge price, but they didn’t. My grades have been staying fairly constant. A few have dropped a little, but my state of mind has been a lot more stable and it’s just what I have to deal with.  Even if they were to suffer greatly, it really wouldn’t matter to me. Many successful students who have advanced into top schools of the nation could easily look down upon me, scoff, and say that I wasn’t working hard enough to begin with and that I’m just acting like a big baby. And in all honesty, that’s fine. In the past few months, I’ve hung out with so many of my old friends whom I used to “never have time for”, gone out to eat with my sister late at night numerous times, and overall learned to enjoy myself. I’m winning. Junior year has been the worst and best year of my life. The AP test for this class, English Language and Composition stressed me out for literally months. Everyday I went in room 306, I was worried about how little time I had left to learn until I take the test. After taking the test, I realize how much of a waste of time and energy it was to stress about it because I’m sure I did fine. I’ve made so many memories that I want to remember forever because I decided to have fun instead of drowning myself in school work which wasn’t even necessary. I’m not in any way advocating the rejection of school and education. All I want to make clear is that I know there are many in the same boat as I was. And if school is tearing you apart, take a step back and take care of yourself first. Have some fun.

 

 

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