It is a common misconception that a progressive school is one big playground where kids are just playing all day, not memorizing enough info and are just too free… like wild animals in the jungle. Though it is tempting to make a huge playground for them to play in all day (because what’s wrong with that??), progressive schools defy the old adage that learning is not supposed to be fun.
1. There’s no structure. Every school curriculum has structure. There are class schedules and routines, scope and sequence charts and developmental checklists. Without these structures, we cannot reach our goals. Why doesn’t it look structured? Because the teachers make sure that the schedules, plans and activities are holistic. There are downtimes, creative times, and play time… things needed in a child’s school day.
2. The students are too rowdy and noisy. I’m all for obedience but Im also all for being opinionated and critical thinking. I like it when my students air out their opinions. My only rule is that they are respectful when they do so. And most of it is probably just the students having fun!
3. They won’t be ready for REAL LIFE if they go on that way. According to Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life but life itself.” The lives my students are leading now ARE their REAL LIVES. Lives that children should be living. They do experience pain, heartache and the burden of work.. and we teach them how to overcome these obstacles and challenges by developing their confidence and self-esteem. But most importantly, their present REAL LIVES should also be defined with a love of learning, enthusiasm in school and enjoyment in the process. The author Haruki Murakami said that “Unfortunately, the most important things in life are not learned in school.” Progressive schools aim to change that.
4. Grades aren’t important to them. Grades are important. But you know what is more important? The love of learning. And you know what’s more important than that? A teachable heart. You don’t believe me? Okay. Here’s a study that proves it (and no, it wasn’t written in the olden days…).
5. They don’t learn anything. They just play all day. Our students learn a lot of things and they enjoy the process in which they learn them. They even review for exams using board games. Why? Why not?! Studies show that experiences make children remember information better. And what’s wrong with play? I’ve listed down life lessons children learn in the playground here.
While writing this post, I spoke to a mom who taught in a very traditional school for many years and the main difference she felt when she observed in a progressive classroom is the high energy level of the children to learn the concepts and the creative ways the teachers plan their lessons. So to answer the question ” Are students in progressive schools having too much fun?”, my answer is YES! Learning is supposed to be fun.