USING HUMOR IN THE CLASSROOM - JOHN HUMPHREY
When I was in elementary and middle school I would spend afternoons, after school, in my mom’s first grade classroom. I saw all the cutesy colors, sparkling bulletin boards and stuffed animals and thought, the last thing I want to do when I grow up is be a teacher!
But here I am decades later loving being an educator! But I had to find my own way, and that involves zero cutesy, and a heavy dose of sarcasm. After college I knew I wanted to live in a foreign country, and teaching English as a foreign language was a good way to do that.
So after teaching in Mexico and South Korea, I decided to just keep on trucking, and teach in the states, until I found something else. But once I became a bilingual dual language teacher in Texas, I truly fell in love with the craft. And with that bilingual stipend in hand, my dreams of owning that summer home in Aspen and purchasing a Lambo in cash have come true!
Humor in the classroom is absolutely essential, or I would go crazy and the kids would be bored to tears. Instead of a discipline style of fear, or teacher versus the students, if I win the kids over early on with humor, sharing real life self deprecating anecdotes, and showing I care, discipline issues start to disappear.
If I show students that we can laugh at ourselves, they become less sensitive and over time disarmed. I always tell them about my fear of my second grade teacher, and how I was too frightened to ask to go to the bathroom on field day, and preferred to fill my white sweatpants with urine. Then I was paraded in front of the whole grade with my now yellow, dripping sweatpants. When the kids can relate to you as a human, through humor especially, you’ll strengthen that bond.
Once rapport is built and the kids know they’re safe, some light roasting is actually beneficial to the kiddos in my opinion. It thickens their skin, which I hope will serve them in the treacherous waters of middle school that await.
One policy I’ve always had with humor in the classroom, especially sarcasm, is it should always be positive and make the kids laugh with you. I never want sarcasm that will hurt someone’s feelings. Then you break away at that bond.
I even incorporate humor into the forming of my lessons. I don’t have the best attention span, so if I wouldn’t find the lesson intriguing, I know they wouldn’t. At some point in a mini lesson, there is time for a brief anecdote or funny story to make a real life connection.
As most teachers would agree, we have to laugh with our coworkers or we would absolutely lose our minds! Ever wonder why some teachers are hard drinkers and the loudest at happy hour? Those teachers who can’t find humor in what we have to go through every day end up getting burnt out quickly.
A good laugh is the best tool to make it through some of the toughest times in teaching, but boy it’s hard to find a laugh during testing season! Please reach out to me if you can find humor in days of standardized tests, because I’m digging deep for those laughs...
John Humphrey was raised in Charleston, SC. He has been a dual language teacher in the Austin/ Pflugerville area for over a decade.
When he’s not teaching, John is staying active with his two sons or playing guitar in local rock bands.