Recently I have embarked on the journey of fatherhood (blog post to follow soon) and have realised the importance of humour in everyday life. Today’s blog post is not just inspired by the joy of having a child in my life that looks up and smiles at me each and every day, but through a conversation that occured 1 hour ago with some Year 6 students. We were talking about different laughs and how laughing makes you feel happy. After this group discussion, one of the girls came up to me and said something that got me smiling. She said “Mr Kemp, I love it how you always make me smile. You are funny, most of the time (with a cheeky laugh under her breath), and you make learning fun”. Then it hit me, why is this even a topic of conversation – why isn’t learning always fun?! What am I doing that some other teachers are not?
I see myself as a pretty funny guy, not hilarious or over the top but a ‘good amount’ of humour to keep myself going throughout the day.
My teaching philosophy revolves around the students and I always place them at the forefront of my thinking. Too often I hear of students who don’t want to come to school. “School is not fun”, “Why do I have to go?”, “I don’t like school”. This frustrates me! Why not!?
Nine times out of ten, students don’t enjoy coming to school because they don’t think it is fun. As an educator my job is to engage students in learning – why can it not be fun? I believe the key way to do this is get them hooked through humour and a sense of fun. My classroom has been and always will be a fun place to learn. Smiling is encouraged, laughing is promoted. Learning happens when engagement is at its highest point!
Keeping students engaged through humour is something I try to do every day. I encourage the students to share their own humour and jokes as well. I always tell jokes (I think they are brilliant) – the students think I am a crazy old guy but it works. They learn to have a laugh and then get back to learning with a smile on their face.
Humour in education helps build a strong professional relationship between students and staff and develops a sense of trust (a critical element that is required in teaching). Humour reduces stress and tension and in the high stakes testing environment that we all find ourselves in – I can’t think of any better way to help calm the stress and nerves. It has been proven that not only does it reduce stress and tension but it also improves retention of information and promotes creativity.
‘Humour is not my thing’ I hear you chanting from afar. Fear not, here are some strategies via @Edutopia (www.edutopia.org) to help you integrate humour into your everyday practice:
- Laugh at yourself – when you do something silly or wrong, mention it and laugh at it
- Add humorous items to tests, homework or class assignments. It always gets smiles, and helps to break exam tension
- Keep a quotable quotes bulletin board or corner in your room — look for humour quotes and post them and encourage your students to do the same
- Keep a cartoon file, and have an area where you can display one or two a day on a rotating basis, with students making the choice
- Have Joke Friday – ask students to bring in jokes to share, either to start the day on Friday, to make a transition between lunch and the following class, or at the end of the day (be sure to screen the jokes in advance, of course)
- Ask students to try to build humour into occasional writing assignments – that will start a conversation about what it funny, how they know something is funny, why different people find some things funny but some things are funny to almost everyone
- Have a funny hat day, or mismatched socks day, or some other funny dress-up time
- Build creative and humorous thinking by showing cartoons and picture without captions and asking students to create them – individually, in pair-shares, or small groups
- Ask students to bring in books they think are funny. Ask them to talk about why, and to use examples from the book
My dad always said to me that a laugh a day keeps the doctor away. He is a very wise man and I think he is right. Not only does it make you feel better and feel positive about what you are doing but potentially (awaiting evidence) it will have positive impacts on our overall health as well.
Make school fun! Think back to the days we were at school – did you enjoy it, was it fun? I think back to my school days and the one teacher I can remember was a guy who made me laugh. I hope humour will help my students remember me and the messages I have shared with them.
Be happy, get engaged and enjoy a laugh – what will you do to encourage humour in your classroom? I can’t wait to hear your stories so please post away 🙂
Remember that learning needs to be the star of the show and that humour adds just one element to an exciting learning environment.
Find something to laugh about with your class today!