Do Educators Need to be Entertainers?

I was recently watching last year’s PBS Frontline episode entitled Growing Up Online with a group of teachers in New York. One teacher in the movie stated that, “[Educators] almost have to be entertainers.” This statement led to a great deal of discussion in the session. It was so interesting that I thought I would post the question here as well. Do today’s students and our fast-paced, interactive world require us to be entertainers? What do you think?


  1. When kids are working on stuff they are interested in (in or out of school) they are “engaged,” not “entertained.” One is passive and the other is active. I’m not sure that students want to be entertained any more than they want to be bored (well, maybe for a short while…). But I do believe they want to be engaged. I would say teachers don’t need to be entertaining. They need to be engaging.

    And it’s an important distinction, because being engaging is a different set of skills than being entertaining…

  2. Thanks Mike, you took the words right out of my fingers. The teacher should be an engaging facilitator, not standing in front of the group desperately trying to hold on to their attention. My favourite classes are those in which I sit back and let them rip!

  3. Mike, I think you hit the nail on the head. Exactly what I was thinking. I cringed when I first heard the statement. I just pictured Bozo the Clown teaching the class. It would be entertaining, but educational…?

    Engaging is the key word here. That’s the word my group settled on as well.

  4. Sorry if I’m about to rain on anyone’s parade, but what exactly does an engaging educator look like? Students can be engaged by a myriad of components within the educational setting–content, pedagogy, the personality of the teacher, etc. But, what does an engaging educator do/say/act…?

  5. You’re not raining on anyone’s parade! We use a model of 9 Essential Elements for Meaningful Engaged Learning ( An engaging teacher would do the following:
    – focus on positive relationships & climate
    – provide positive pressure and support for student success
    – do a lot of active, hands-on learning
    – provide variety and attend to learning styles
    – make content interesting and tie it into students’ own interests
    – avoid bribery rewards
    – solicit student voice & choice
    – make connections between content especially via higher order thinking (apply, analyze, evaluate, create)
    – put learning into context through personal and community and world connections

    In my experience working with schools designed to motivate kids, probably the Big 4 are relationships, learning by doing, higher order thinking, and real world connections…

  6. I like the McMel definition Mike, and think that students may not differ between engaging and entertaining. I think back to the teachers that I respected most (not necessarily liked the most) and they got me to work harder, because I they asked me to do more than just recite what they wanted to hear. I know personal experience isn’t what we are discussing, but as I try to analyze my faulty memory, I can identify at least five or six things they did on that list, and positive relationships is number one!

  7. This thread is very interesting to me, especially as I am changing careers from professional children’s entertainer to special education teacher! The teacher quoted above from the PBS show seems to be thinking that teaching is all about the teacher. I agree with the above comments that it’s about engaging the students, putting material in front of them in a way that interests them. They will be more interested when the teacher is clearly interested in them as people, which is where the relationships come in.

  8. While I agree that teachers need to be engaging not entertaining, why can’t you be both? I remember my son’s kindergarten teacher – her expressive, low voice mesmerized her students as she read stories in different voices. As a sixth grade teacher, I find that injecting some humor in conversations sometimes keeps kids engaged.

  9. Students need to learn, think, create, solve, build and whatever. Ultimately I would like to see them support themselves and contribute something to society. If anything motivates students into exploring knowledge, creating new knowledge and discovering solutions to problems, we have done our jobs well. It does not matter how we do it. Just that the students get there. We need to develop diversified teaching methods to accommodate individual students’ learning styles.
    I attended a New York Public Library event for teenagers yesterday. It used to be Books for the Teen Age event. Now it is called Stuff for the Teen Age, STA A young man was there observing a new game on display. It was an entertaining game. He wanted to know if there were any educational games. Wow! I guess he was motivated. He wanted more than entertainment.

  10. I am interested in being more engaging in the classroom, but struggle with students who are assigned to math classes they do not want to take, and a curriculum that is locked in from both ends. Through sheer force of will, developing personal relationships, and differentiating instruction to groups and individuals, I get most of the work done, but it is neither engaging nor entertaining. I like the McMEL indicators, and seek concrete methods to institute them.

  11. This is such welcomed discussion! In Ontario, Canada, where I teach, there is very little, if any discussion of the tone or climate teachers create in their classes. In the past 5 years, tremendous time and resources have been concentrated on literacy development – balanced reading – and other prescribed methods. Perhaps effective in the areas targeted areas, I would argue that consideration of student – and teacher- MOTIVATION is sadly, sadly lacking and rarely mentioned other than to offer awards. In fact there is somewhat of a paradox in the fact that initiatives that are celebrated by our school community, administrators and our school board are often perfect examples of what happens when consuming prescribed methods are put aside for an array of exceptionally deviant undertakings.
    Both reassured and inspired by the definition of 9 Essential Elements for Meaningful Engaged Learning, I would argue that educators should lead by example, inspire with their passion and awaken spirits with genuine whole-hearted curiosity. Entertain, no.
    Lofty, perhaps, but I teach grade 3. While it offers nothing spectacular in content – especially after a few years – our time together is enlivened with an appreciation for their development as young people, the relationships we develop and sometimes struggle with throughout the year, group work and the professional attitude it requires to do it well and above all the circumvention of conventions that divorce us from genuine and whole-hearted experiences. When we consistently wake looking forward to our day and leave with a tired and satisfied smile, we`re doing OK.
    I am not their friend, their parent or their clown. I am a teacher who continues to explore, learn and laugh. If teaching didn’t afford these essentials, I`d sooner … whatever.

  12. I do agree with that statement. It has gotten to a point that students do not learn unless there is a fun activity involved in the lesson being taught, due to the short attention spans. Unless the teachers find some way of making the lesson they are teaching fun, the students will not learn much. Teachers do need to be entertaining.

  13. Teachers don’t need to be entertainers, we just need to be facilitators. It isn’t about giving notes or talking at our students, it is about getting them to talk to each other. And, to do so at a certain level. Are they asking each other the right questions? Are they thoughtful about their answers? Are they thinking critically about what they read? If we don’t stimulate conversation, how do we know whether they are, infact, learning?

  14. Underlying all these great comments is my opinion more than anything what we teach must be relevant. Our students love to solve problems and help others. By using technology tools, we are simply using the communication of our times to empower students to become empowered global citizens.

    I also saw the PBS program and it confirmed my belief that we must tap into powerful technology tools communicate with our students. This is how we as educators communicate with our peers, family and friends. Our students are no different except that they were born into this technological world. So technology is simply something we can use to empower our students to communicate content that is rich and valid.


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