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In every job that must be done there is an element of fun

• Mary Laura Bragg

This weekend, while my husband was working, I decided to make a game out of cleaning the house.  I cut up strips of paper and let my four year old, Maggie, write down the “messes” that needed to be cleaned up.

She came up with:

  • Kitchen table
  • My Legos
  • Crayons, stickers, and glue on the Dining Room table
  • Stuffed animals on my bed
  • Dirty clothes
  • Your stinky dishes
  • Guest room with all my toys

We put the strips in a bag and drew them out one at a time, and tackled each job one by one.

I’ve watched Mary Poppins at least 50 times. And the quote goes something like this: In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game! But trust me. This was no “snap, the job’s a game,” but Maggie was fun to watch.  I was ready to quit after three strips –  but she kept on going.

(Full disclosure: I pulled one of the strips out and destroyed it when she wasn’t looking, because I just couldn’t face that particular mess.  Even with a spoonful of sugar.)

At one point, I saw her out of the corner of my eye, snapping her fingers, hoping the Legos would magically jump into their basket.  She looked at me and said, “this isn’t like that movie with the pretty lady who sings to the bird, Momma.”  But she kept on going.

She found as much joy in cleaning up each mess as she did in crossing off the words on the strip.  I just wanted to hurry up and get through the whole bag so I could go play Candy Crush.

Tuesday morning, when we were walking out the door to school, she said, “Momma, the kitchen table is dirty again.”

It’s humbling to learn a lesson from a four year old.

Reforming education can be fun.  And some reforms are easy.  But there are some that are just NOT a snap.  And it can take a lot more work than we are sometimes willing to give.  But it needs to be done.  It has to be done.  And it is never done.

About the author

Mary Laura Bragg

Mary Laura serves as the Interim Vice President of Advocacy for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. A former classroom teacher, Mary Laura directed Governor Jeb Bush’s statewide literacy initiative, Just Read, Florida! As director, she was responsible for crafting and implementing the policies that helped place a command focus on reading instruction in Florida. She has served on advisory groups on adolescent literacy for both the Alliance for Excellent Education and the National Governors Association. She is also a member of Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Advisory Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy. Contact Mary Laura at