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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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What Makes a Learning Experience Unbelievably Satisfying?

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator
"Good." My typical reply to that is, "Good for what?" This makes her laugh but she still doesn't want to provide much detail to her days learning activities. It might be that she is providing a buffer of protection for her teachers from an overly critical dad, or I suppose it could be a syndrome of her age -- simply not wanting dad to know too much.

Whatever it is, it's the typical response and she only shares more about her day upon insistent prodding. It would be nice, just one day, if I would ask her, "How was your day at school?" and she would respond, "Unbelievably satisfying!"

Those are words that I don't think are regularly used to describe schools. Even more specifically, I am reasonably certain that in the history of the world, no student has ever described her day at school as unbelievably satisfying. These are the thoughts that pass through my head every day as I drive passed a billboard for Dr. Pepper, in which a smiling leprechaun holds up a soda can and in big bold letters states, "Unbelievably Satisfying!"

But wouldn't it be absolutely awesome if our schools were able to inspire this kind of emotion in their students?

So how can an everyday school experience become unbelievably satisfying to a student? In the case of Dr. Pepper, they claim it is this way because it quenches your thirst, and is sweet, tasty, and fizzy. Let's look at how a teacher can make her classroom learning activities unbelievably satisfying for her students:

  • Students have a general curiosity, a thirst to find out what's new. When a teacher inspires students to discover something new, you can actually hear the gulp, gulp gulp...ahhhhhhh.
  • Students love to feel needed and essential. When teachers share leadership and play to the strengths of the student, there it goes again, gulp, gulp gulp...ahhhhhhh.
  • Students crave honest and specific praise and when they get it from an observant teacher, gulp, gulp gulp...ahhhhhhh.
  • The sweetness of victory fills students to the brim when they succeed at difficult problems with which an astute teacher has challenged them, gulp, gulp gulp...ahhhhhhh.
  • Canny teachers purposefully engage the students in hands-on projects designed to leave the students with a taste for more, while energetic and enthusiastic teachers create fun and active learning environments where the students' excitement can't help but bubble to the surface, gulp, gulp gulp...ahhhhhhh.

That is how teachers can create unbelievably satisfying days at school for students. Getting away from the idea that education is something you do to kids, and embracing the idea that it is something to be experienced with kids is what will make the difference between a good day at school and an unbelievably satisfying one.

Mercedes is my youngest child, but I have hope that soon she will have unbelievably satisfying days at school every day.

What are some ways that you make learning experiences in your classroom satisfying and memorable for your students?

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator
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Dr. Mike Todd's picture
Dr. Mike Todd
Chief Learning Officer

As a past administrator at the high school level, I found that being in the moment counted a lot. Whether it was a funny story, sharing a concern for a fellow classmate, or inviting me to a class to see a presentation, students wanted you connecting with them. Even though I may have been asked the same question many times and could have shunned the next student, it was only the first time this student had asked. The first student got a genuine and concerned response and the seventy-first should get the same.

Ben Johnson's picture
Ben Johnson
Administrator, author and educator

[quote]As a past administrator at the high school level, I found that being in the moment counted a lot. Whether it was a funny story, sharing a concern for a fellow classmate, or inviting me to a class to see a presentation, students wanted you connecting with them. Even though I may have been asked the same question many times and could have shunned the next student, it was only the first time this student had asked. The first student got a genuine and concerned response and the seventy-first should get the same.[/quote]

Dr. Todd:

You bring up a good point. As educators, we may have taught a concept a hundred times, but it is the first time for that student and they deserve the same enthusiasm and joy that we had the first time we taught the concept.

When we are "in the moment" we share something with the students, a part of us and afterwards they can perceive us as more than a title and and a tie with shiny shoes. Yes you are right, this is one of the steps to unbelievably satisfying education. Thanks for sharing!

Ben Johnson
San Antonio, TX

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