When you have a “class clown” among your students, it’s tempting to see how funny he finds an extra homework assignment, delivered as the climax of a public scolding. And then turn to the rest of the class and give a three-part lecture on how learning is serious business, interruptions aren’t to be tolerated, and no good ever came of fooling around on the job.
The question of dealing with genuinely disruptive students is a topic for another article. For today, I’d like you to consider that banishing all laughter—so natural to children, so annoying to overstressed adults—may not be the best way to run a classroom. If you teach your students that humor is incompatible with getting anything important done, they’ll learn to see work as drudgery. If you can’t laugh on the job, you may wind up too tired to laugh in your off hours. And if laughter disappears from your life altogether, you may pay a heavy price in the form of failing health, sluggish brain function, chronic irritability—and becoming the teacher no student wants to be assigned to.
Of course you can’t let every lesson turn into an improv comedy session. But there’s little harm and much benefit in joining the kids for a good daily laugh.
Bringing Laughter Into a Classroom
Open lessons with a funny anecdote. (Public speakers do it all the time with adult audiences.)
Look for chuckle-worthy elements to include in curricula: famous humor writers for literature; funny quotes from history subjects; absent-minded-professor stories involving prominent mathematicians.
Have a show-and-tell session on “the funniest thing that ever happened to me.”
Call an occasional “laugh break” where everyone laughs loudly for five minutes, not at anything in particular, just for the exercise.
Remember that nothing is funny if the laughs come at the expense of someone else’s feelings, and that what was innocent humor forty years ago may be perceived as hurtful today. Tolerate no mean-spirited teasing; emphasize laughing with and not at others; apologize if your joke accidentally hurts someone’s feelings; and definitely don’t scold anyone for being “too sensitive,” even if it seems that way to you. (That approach will only encourage classmates to laugh at the child involved, who will feel less than ever like laughing along.)
When you unintentionally do or say something ridiculous, and the class breaks up, set them an example of being a good sport: laugh along wholeheartedly.
If you have a chronic “clown” in the class, find ways to help him direct his gift into positive channels—and remember that truly great people never outgrow their sense of humor.
Funny Quotes From Students
Six animals that live in the Arctic are four polar bears and two seals.
Puberty is when kids start to enter adultery.
The science of classifying living things is called racism.
Saturn has the most rings of any planet in the solar system, because she’s been married the most times.
A plant cell is where they lock up troublemakers like poison ivy.