George Lucas Educational Foundation

Does teaching require a sense of humor?

Does teaching require a sense of humor?

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Came across a great question on Google+ this week from a high school teacher in Texas: Does teaching require a sense of humor?

He linked to this article: "Reasons why high school teachers need a sense of humor." Here's one of my favorite quotes:

"Being a high school teacher requires a sense of humor. In a high school classroom you will encounter pranksters, gossips, ne'er-do-wells, cynics, and a whole slew of other teenagers well past their doe-eyed childhood. Sometimes teenage rebellion and adolescent angst has morphed eager-to-please youngsters into brooding, snappish proto-adults. A sense of humor can help prevent a teacher from blowing his or her stack as the flows of quips, complaints, and bickering never seem to cease."

While the article speaks specifically to high school teachers, I think this applies all around! How do you use humor in your classroom? Do you consider it part of your classroom management "tool belt?"

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Becky Rice's picture
Becky Rice
8th grade inclusion teacher; regular ed math, ELA, and reading teacher

I couldn't teach without humor. some days I have to bring my humor to the class, but most days the students bring humor to me. I wouldn't want to teach without humor. It helps me to connect with the students so we can then have "real" discussions.

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

Hi Sally,

I hear you. Sometimes teachers feel like they're on an island with no one to support them. And what's worse, we're held to impossibly high standards while trying to teach, manage, and grow a classroom full of (sometimes rowdy) kids. First off, you need to allow yourself the freedom for things like this to happen. Realize that it is okay for kids to be a little rowdy sometimes, and occasionally things will get out of your control. That's okay. We're only human and we all make mistakes. Second, we all learn from our mistakes. It sounds like you have a plan in place to make sure this doesn't happen again. Practice the procedure with your students many times in order to ensure that it becomes a routine. Lastly, you should confront this Title teacher and let her know what happened. It will make you feel better to talk it through and inform her that you have a plan in place.

I cannot emphasize it enough. Teachers need to practice empathy, patience, and forgiveness for their students, colleagues, and ESPECIALLY themselves. We're not perfect and things can get out of control. As long as we all acknowledge that it's okay to make mistakes ourselves, we'll be able to pass on this strong message to our students.

So Sally, please do NOT feel like a failure or stress about this incident. I've certainly had worse. For example, in my first grade music class I was teaching Ring Around the Rosie when my students decided to mosh pit on the carpet. The best part, the principal walked in while showing a new family around! We all had a good laugh after. Next time we played Ring Around the Rosie we practiced "not moshpitting". It went pretty well ;)

Lisa Dabbs's picture
Lisa Dabbs
Educational Consultant. Author. Speaker. Blogger.

Hi Sally,
I totally understand your concern. I was a school principal for 14 years and often worked to smooth over misunderstandings that would occur during the school day. You sound like such a committed and caring teacher and It makes me sad to hear that you are struggling with this issue. I'd definitely take the time to talk to the Title teacher and sincerely share your concern. Sometimes just clearing the air is all it takes to get back on the right foot.
Everyone is entitled to make mistakes from time to time. After all...we are only human. Be well and keep us posted on your progress.

daniel's picture
A-level lecturer

I totally agree.
Imagine a class led by a teacher who is either boring, confrontational, angry, uninterested......No student wants to be in that class...
Humour is the best medicine for the unmotivated, uninterested, boring student....
In fact, get them to share a joke or two in a class tokill boredom.....
While being focused in your lesson at hand, it wont hurt to have a joke or two to get them to see things just like how I do.

I been a student once and learning days were best with a teacher that has a sense of humour...

Have a great teaching day mate!

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Hi Sally-
I think you did the exact right thing: you recognized that things didn't go according to your expectations, you made a new plan, you communicated it to the students and you're owning that you make a mistake. Now that some time is passed, are you feeling better at all? Were there other repercussions? Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how long we've been teaching.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I just read Laura's comment, and I just wanted to add- i think students respect honesty and candor, and being able to admit you make mistakes helps them accept that learning and life aren't perfect- it gives then room to try and make mistakes along the way, but realize it's not the end of the world. I don't think we do enough to make it acceptable for kids to "fail"- to answer a question incorrectly, to make mistakes, without feeling the weight of critique from all sides. I wish there was more of a sense of experimentation (appropriately, of course) in the classroom- even telling kids before hand that you are trying something new, and need their feedback on how it goes- it puts everyone on the same team and gives the teacher room to innovate.

Chelsea's picture
5th Grade Math Teacher

I agree above with how anyone could be a teacher without a sense of humor. Student enjoy a teacher with a sense of humor because it makes you human. It makes learning fun and shows the students that you can have fun while also being serious when it is time for it. Students learn that they can trust you and relate to you more if you have a sense of humor.

Martin Richards's picture
Martin Richards
I train educators to use a coaching approach in their teaching practice

Question: Does teaching require a sense of humour?

Answer: A most emphatic, size ten, multi-coloured, YES, with bells on.

Humour (not jokes) is essential for a hundred reasons. And we could have a go at listing them all here. Or we could talk about HOW teachers can regain and develop their sense of humour.

Here's one way, just a suggestion and I'm confident that this community will generate more. This comes from the book "A Coaching Approach to Education"

At the start of the lesson, the history teacher started with an anecdote about the Napoleonic Wars. She introduced some background information, telling who was involved, where and when. Then came more details about the events that lead up to a particular battle on a particular day. To the casual listener this was just an ordinary history lesson, an anecdote with the information to be learned. But the history students started to giggle and look at each other in disbelief as the anecdote unfolded with increasing mentions of such things as aeroplanes and tanks. At the end of the story the teacher told the class what Napoleon had said to his girlfriend, "Not tonight Josephine", which he had sent in a text message on his smart phone. At which the students burst into gales of laughter.

Oh, and why not jokes?
Jokes are like frozen, tinned or dried food - convenient.
Humour is like fresh food - full of energy and inspiration

Hmm, I have a feeling that the above metaphor can take this conversation to unexpected places.

Ariel's picture
Second grade ELL Teacher in Istanbul, Turkey

I absolutely agree that having a sense of humor in the classroom is a positive tool, and one that works well for classroom management. I believe that by using humor, students are more engaged in the lesson, and more willing to participate if they find their teacher interesting. My second graders always keep me entertained, I should return the favor :)

Stacie's picture

Yes! Otherwise you might go crazy. It makes my classroom more fun and enjoyable if I can laugh and so can my students.

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