Fiction Becomes Reality in the Classroom: “If you are having fun, you are not learning.”
Matilda, a book by Roald Dahl, then a movie. Somehow I missed both in my earlier, busy life as a teacher. Now as a retired educator, I can indulge in so many things I missed. By day, when the Mexican light is good, I pursue my pleasant goal of reading all of Agatha Christie’s eighty-eight plus works. By night, I explore Mexican Netflix which is limited compared to availability in the U.S. Last night I watched Matilda, and I was caught up at once in the fictional tale of the precocious preschooler who taught herself to read and then went daily by herself to the public library to devour its contents.
Innocent Matilda has her dream come true as she is finally enrolled in school. The principal is terrifying, but her teacher is the sweetest you can imagine, seeing potential in children and valuing their dreams. At this point the movie becomes a horror story for me. I gasp as I see the motto in large letters at the top of the chalkboard: “If you are having fun, you are not learning.” Then as the principal arrives for a visit, the teacher and children spring into action as a team. Shades are quickly pulled down and charts flipped over to cover the meaningful and colorful projects that are the result of engaged learning. I could feel the stress of my last years as a teacher return. I could hear the sucking sound of laughter being withdrawn from the classroom.
The evening over and the lights out, I lay awake with memories of real charts that had to be in place on the walls in my classroom. Curriculum and Instruction let them drift down at intervals all year from the ivory tower with specifications as to their importance. The principal directed that they needed to be displayed; to do otherwise would mean a label of “ineffective” on the teacher’s evaluation. Every new workshop that administrators attended resulted in new mandates with accompanying visuals. We were to implement post haste this hodgepodge of procedures received third hand from experts who didn’t have a clue who our students were or what they needed.
For me, the nightmare is over, but I can not and will not forget those brave teachers still fighting the good fight and struggling to do what is right and best for their students. As a teacher I took unpopular stances and now I continue the battle against the forces of educational destruction which are directed by politicians, funded by big business, and implemented by misguided administrators.