Prioritizing Fun | Hooray for Monday

July 11, 2022

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

Last week I wrote about the importance of engaging our empathy and listening to the children in our lives. Summer is a great time to fine-tune our listening skills, as we consider questions like, “What do the children in my life need?” and “How can I help ensure those needs are met?”

As we hone our listening skills for the benefit of others, we can – and should! – use those same skills to support ourselves as well. An Inspired Teacher is a Reflective Practitioner, and that includes knowing when and how to practice self-care.

What if we also consider these questions: “What do I need?” and “How can I help ensure my own needs are met?”

This direct inquiry into our own needs is simple, but for many of us, it’s not habitual. Inspired Teaching’s ABCDE of Learner Needs, which I’ve shared before, is a tool that helps teachers identify and meet students’ needs. It is also a tool you can use for yourself.

How well are you meeting your own need for Autonomy, Belonging, Competence, Developmental Appropriateness, Engagement and Fun?

  • Could summer be a time when you have more say over how you spend your waking hours? (Autonomy)
  • Can you choose to spend time with people who uplift and embrace you? (Belonging)
  • Is there an activity you love to do that you could do more of this month? (Competence)
  • Is there a not-too-scary challenge you’ve been wanting to try? (Developmental Appropriateness)
  • Is there an activity that calls to you through which you can have a positive impact on your community? (Engagement)

All of these needs are critically important. But it’s summertime, and I can literally hear the ice cream truck playing “The Entertainer” in the background as I’m writing this post, so let’s double down on Fun!

Yes! Fun is an actual human need. Busy, responsible adults like us may need a refresher on the definition of fun. If you want to have fun, think: “I want to do something that makes me feel relaxed, that brings me pleasure – just because it feels good!”

Fun can mean binge-watching a favorite show or trying a new recipe or heading out for a night on the town with friends. But for those of us who may not be in the habit of listening to our own needs, prioritizing fun may require effort. So my colleagues and I are doing our best to help get you started. Below you will find a brief list of fun activities – see which appeal to you!

As we necessarily focus on the needs of those around us, our own voices can get drowned out. And of course, focusing on mental and physical wellness is a complex task that extends far beyond making time for fun. But recognizing and meeting our need for fun can be a great way to get a jumpstart on self-care. 

This week’s resources contain recommendations for carving out time to listen to your own voice, and for acting on what you hear.

Wishing you a week during which you create your own definition of fun.

Resources

Some of these are online opportunities or quiet activities you can engage in at home. Some are free or low-cost activities to get you outside in the DC region. If you’re not in DC, your local papers and other news outlets will have lists of summer fun in your area.

 

  1. Get Outside. There are plenty of parks and other outdoor spaces in and around DC, whether you want to simply enjoy nature or take a challenging hike. If you prefer hands-on activities, Anacostia Riverkeeper offers free fishing lessons every Friday and opportunities to assist in river clean-up.
  2. Listen to Live Music. Treat yourself to a summer full of song: Glen Echo Park hosts free concerts every Thursday through the end of August. From folk to a jazz ensemble, there are plenty of opportunities to discover new sounds.
  3. Watch Movies Under the Stars. Nothing makes rewatching a favorite movie or catching the latest blockbuster better than doing it on a picnic blanket with the summer sky above you. DCist has a great list where you can catch outdoor movies this summer.
  4. Laugh. Open mic nights are a wonderful opportunity to catch new comedic talent – or try stand-up yourself! They say laughter is the best medicine, after all. Use this site to find one near you.
  5. Read a Book. The school year is filled with plenty of reading, but it’s not often we have time to read the stuff we’d like to read. Use the summer to catch up! This list from the Washington Post is a great compilation of this year’s can’t-miss reads.
  6. Learn a New Skill. Now is the perfect time to revisit your favorite childhood hobbies or pick up a brand-new skill that will “wow” your friends at parties! From watercolor to cross-stitch, Shop Made in DC has an array of fun classes to choose from. If you’re not in the area or would prefer something online, this list of YouTube channels can teach you everything from card tricks or coding.
  7. Eat Good Food. Restaurant Week isn’t free, but it is a wonderful opportunity to try the many amazing places you’ve had on your radar – at a discount. Make a reservation and close out your summer with a delicious meal or three.
  8. Immerse Yourself in Theater. Enter the world of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream when you visit the National Building Museum. Included in the exhibit are sword fight demonstrations, a museum-wide scavenger hunt, and, of course, the play itself!
  9. Meet New People. Discovering a new hobby, taking a hike, enjoying a great meal: All can be more fun when done with friends! Washington DC Meetup has thousands of members from the area and dozens of interest-specific groups to join. Find like-minded people with whom to enjoy summer.
  10. Move Your Body. This is one you can do anywhere, any time, at no cost at all. But if you’d like some company, you can check out these free outdoor yoga sessions in Georgetown. Or join Inspired Teaching at the National Arboretum for our free monthly Institute!
September Inspired Teaching Institute

Teachers can’t control what happens between the time students wake up and when they arrive at school but they have a lot of control over what happens when students cross the classroom threshold. Participants in this fast-paced, idea-rich Institute will learn 20 different strategies for starting the school day!