Teaching Profession

Should Class Feel Like Entertainment? Teachers Have Mixed Feelings

By Tanyon A. Duprey — May 22, 2024 4 min read
An eighth-grade math teacher demonstrates a lesson called “math golf.”
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Teaching always has its theatrical moments, but should teachers purposely aim to be entertaining, rather than authentic or authoritative?

Over the years, like many professions, teaching has had many competing narratives about teacher comportment. Today, the notion that teachers must make their lessons engaging and entertaining has become increasingly popular, with varied reception.

In 2023, EdWeek wrote about the debate of whether teachers should have to be entertainers. In response to that article, many more teachers recently took to social media to make their own opinions known.

The following is a collection of the most popular themes.

Authenticity is key

“I’m absolutely not an entertainer. Not now, not ever. I’m not an actor, performer, or clown at the circus. I’m not putting on a fake persona for attention and engagement. I am an educator and a carer. I build relationships with students and show them how valued they are. I help them grow a love of learning by being present and interested in them ... I am myself.”

Ju L.

“The best advice I received was to just be yourself but always ahead of the students. Just be yourself—even if it means you’re considered ‘boring.’ Students are at school to receive an education, not an entertainment show.”

Sakina A.

“However you [teach], you have to make the class interesting and engaging; I have seen a lot of really creative ideas for that. Enjoy being with your classes. If you do, they will sense that and listen carefully to you.”

Marilyn W.

“The unusual, the unexpected, and the seeming contradictions, these are your tools for attention and creating questions to be answered or discovered. But entertainment is different. It can also be one of these tools, but only when it is integral to the learning, not as a [standard operating procedure] all the time. You have to be YOU.”

Mereatz H.

‘Entertaining wasn’t in the job description’

“I was told in my education college class, ‘Teachers are like actors, the show must go on even if we are sick, or tired, or not feeling it.’ ... Another thing teachers are expected to do, but are not paid enough for. We have so many job titles but [are] only paid for one.”

Laura A.

“I’m only surviving middle school because I’m an entertainer.”

Robin B.

“You have to put on a performance every lesson, doesn’t have to be singing and dancing but it doesn’t matter how you feel you need to be focused, positive, and dynamic. Particularly exhausting if you have had a full teaching day.”

Michele M.

“Our district literally purchased a program for us to entertain kids with. We are expected to put on a dog and pony show all the time and the program is constantly shoved down our throats ... We went from ‘kids are bored at school,’ to ‘kids have to be constantly stimulated’ all day long. It’s exhausting and ridiculous ...”

Amanda M.

“I felt like I was an entertainer, magician, enforcer, mother, nurse, and oh yes, someone who did her best to engage and encourage children to read and learn. I did it for over 40 years ...”

Madalin B.

“I feel like I have to, but when I get home I don’t have a lot of energy left for my own kids.”

Britt P.

“I always felt like I had to be “on” every day. It was especially difficult if I was going through stress in my other life. I had to block that out of my mind in order to give them my best effort.”

Elizabeth W.

Balance is needed

“I try to make my lessons engaging, but it is not realistic for every lesson every day to be the most exciting thing ever. At some point, we also have to teach students to focus and work on things they aren’t excited to do ...”

Erin R.

“Life is boring sometimes. Children need to learn how to be bored.”

Brenda C.

“Children are not “one size fits all.” Some love the “hey guys, we’re going to have FUN!” approach. Some respond better to a calm environment. Some vary according to mood or what is going on in their lives. Teachers try to provide what they need all the time. The ones who overtly ‘perform’ are often doing it for themselves.”

Angela R.

“It is takes all kinds of styles to teach all kinds of students. It is a dynamic position to teach every day. Each class has their own community culture developed with the teacher.”

Darcy B.

“There are times to be energetic and ‘perform.’ There are times to be calm, thoughtful, patient, and primarily helpful.”

Mary A.

“Well, we can present material and concepts in engaging ways and hype an assignment, but at some point, students just need to write an essay.”

Barbara M.

Entertaining and learning can be an effective partnership

“I’m retired and bumped into a former pupil who said ‘I’ll always remember the day we turned our room into a Victorian classroom. I was so glad we didn’t learn like that anymore.’ To have a lesson be remembered 20 years later cannot be wrong. [For those that were curious]: Yes, I was dressed in Victorian clothing and was a strict disciplinarian.”

Jean B.

“Yes! But we can teach them to entertain each other, too? In my HS classes, I require slide presentations to be ‘interactive.’ Students must use guessing games, unscrambles, fill-in, Pictionary, or charades to teach the material on each of their slides ... Class goes by so fast and they’re more likely to remember everything down the road because of the positive and challenging connections.”

Kirsten J.

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