The truth is that when we scrub joy and comfort from the classroom, we distance our students from effective information processing and long-term memory storage. Instead of taking pleasure from learning, students become bored, anxious, and anything but engaged. They ultimately learn to feel bad about school and lose the joy they once felt.
I'm reminded of a story that my mother often relates about my experiences when I first started school. They initially enrolled me in a local private school that followed fairly traditional teaching methods: the students sat at desks and did assignments that were, for me, far below my level of capability. After about the second week I turned to my mother after school and said, "How long do I have to do this? I already know everything." They ended up enrolling me in a Montessori program, where I flourished until the middle of second grade -- by which point I had outpaced all of the other students. My teacher tried to keep me learning by giving me paperwork to do, but the assignments I had were dull and lifeless compared to the interesting stuff that my classmates were doing. As a result, I slacked on the assigned work and didn't complete it. Faced with the prospect of double-promoting me the next year -- which wouldn't have been a good choice because I was emotionally young for my age -- my parents pulled me out and home-schooled me for the rest of my elementary and high school education (though I did take a few college classes in my senior year to fulfill my science and foreign language requirements).
My own experience illustrates how important it is to engage students' interest and give them the chance to do things that are fun in the process of learning. It's my hope that I will be able to give my students that kind of positive learning experience, to open them up to the wonder of the world around us.