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I’m Not a Comedian, But I Play One At School

February 8, 2010

I’ve always fancied myself a pretty funny gal. I like to break tension with laughter and keep people engaged with humor. I don’t know why, but for some reason I assumed that this facet of my personality would be left outside the classroom. As I spend more time teaching, I am starting to realize that this job is a very personal thing. All of your personality quirks, your idiosyncrasies and (hopefully!) your talents come out with full force when you take your spot at the front of that class. If this freaks you out, I completely understand. It freaks me out too, but it’s true. All of the current research urges teachers to show students who they really are and connect with them on a personal level. For me, this is the easiest and most natural thing I do…and the funniest.

Okay, I realize that I keep asserting that I’m funny, but haven’t made one joke or attempted to prove that I’m not deluding myself. Allow me to go into some of the things I’ve said in the past week. My class is reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens right now, and this has offered me several opportunities to show off how “punny” I can be to my students. The first thing I did was start calling Magwitch, Pip’s convict and benefactor, “Manwich” because, as I explained, “he’s messy like a sloppy joe and I have trouble remembering names.” I got some laughs, and I’m convinced that my students weren’t just laughing for grades. At least, I hope…

Another time I found myself staring at a sea of laughing faces was when we were exploring the definition of the gothic novel. We were brainstorming all the things we knew about the gothic genre and one of the students mentioned architecture. Someone called out gargoyles and I said, “yes! And flying buttresses!”. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I didn’t make a butt joke (even though I wanted to). Instead, the class asked me about the flying buttresses and I attempted to explain them through ineffective description and wild hand gestures. Since this wasn’t working, I then turned to the board and started drawing a gothic cathedral, buttresses and all. When I was finished, I turned sheepishly to them, ashamed of my handiwork. Someone said, “Ms. Workman, that looks like a spider!” and everyone laughed. I laughed too, and drew a little face on my gothic spider. We moved on, but I brought in a picture of the buttresses the next day to clarify.

The final humorous story has to do with the theory of relativity. One of my fellow education students, who is a budding chemistry teacher, explained the theory of relativity and time to me last week. Since then, I’ve been talking about it to everyone. When my classmate explained this to me, he said that when they put an atomic clock on the north pole and one on the equator, the one on the equator moves more slowly because the earth is rotating on its axis, therefore the clock there is moving through space at a faster rate. I don’t know about you, but this boggles my mind. When I was out for dinner with my choir friends, I was talking about this theory and my friend Ashley came up with her own theory. It can be summed up thusly: people on the equator have very short life spans because of disease, and let’s face it, it’s hot on the equator. However, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and has been alive FOREVER. Therefore, the theory of relativity cannot possibly be true. It’s a ridiculous assertion, but I happen to like it!

The next day, my lesson plan was to have students argue different points and back up these arguments with facts. As an example, I decided to share the relativity/Santa argument. My students thought it was great once they realized I was only kidding. It was a good example of how you can argue almost anything as long as you think critically about it and present your idea effectively. I even had a student disprove Ashley’s disproval by pointing out that Santa must travel at the speed of light to deliver all those presents at Christmas, and that’s why he’s still alive. What a great thinker! Anyhow, the end of this story isn’t so happy. Later that night, I received a book report from one of my students on Nickolas Sparks’ The Notebook. In her report, she said that the narrative often switched times. She then went on to say that time is a confusing and irrelevant theory, which is very close to what I had said earlier that day. The moral of this story is, you can joke around, but you should be careful to make sure everyone knows you’re joking.

We’ll see if I get any notes from parents this week, but it’s not going to stop me from thinking that I’m funny.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ginnette permalink
    February 12, 2010 7:27 pm

    Its great to have a sense of humor! I love that in my professors!
    Keep up the great work; I’m sure your students appreciate your enthusiasm and engagement!

  2. Jolene permalink
    March 4, 2010 10:36 pm

    I enjoyed reading about the humor you try to bring to the classroom. I think it makes the class more entertaining and if you can relate your humor to the subject matter, which it seems you are able to do, it make the subject come alive for your students. Students like to get to know their teachers in a personal way, although I would caution you, as the teacher, not to give out too much personal information. You still need to be an authority figure and maintain your place as the leader in their classroom. You sound as if you are really enjoying your role as a teacher and it seems as if your students are responding to you and getting to know you as a “person” not just their teacher. Good luck as you pursue your goals.

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