Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Don't Forget to Laugh

Don’t Forget to Laugh

by Jill Jenkins
                Life is a series of pratfalls and if you can’t laugh at yourself, you will explode.  Allow yourself the luxury of a good laugh.  Schools are all unnatural situations fighting impossible odds.  The tension can get so thick that everyone and everything seems to be coming apart at the seams.  Teachers are asked to perform miracles in over-crowded classes filled with students who are riddled with hormones, who are growing so fast that their butts can’t stay in their plastic, broken chairs while their voices cracks and their shoes that fit in the morning are now pinching their feet.  All of them are secretly pining for some unrequited lover who is a pimply faced adolescent who not only has no idea that they even exist, but is also secretly pining for another unsuspecting adolescent.  From this turmoil, teachers are expected to create a well-organized army of intellectuals who can read three grade-levels above their own grade, compose both argumentative and informational essays at the snap of a finger with correct M.L.A. documentation, and decipher advanced college calculus and do all of this without ruffling any feathers of parents, counselors, administrators or fellow teachers.  Is it any wonder that whining from the staff room can be heard three corridors across the school, but the sane solution is to stop whining and start laughing.
                Laughing will not only reduce teacher stress, it will reduce student stress.  Laugh not only at the everyday occurrences, but (and more importantly) laugh at yourself.  I recall a particularly difficult day when I was teaching theater at West High School.  Play rehearsal was under way for Alice in Wonderland. The auditorium was filled with cardboard barrels that Sweet’s Candy Company had generously donated to make the many mushrooms for our set.  One of these barrels had been placed in front of the stage where I sat to give the students stage directions.  On this day, students were not paying attention and were spending too much time socializing in the wings causing them to miss too many cues. Like a good educators, I called the cast to the front of the auditorium to lecture them on why it was important to focus during rehearsal because of the limited time we had to prepare our play.  Lack of time to properly prepare is an on-going problem in schools.  As I talked, I paced about finally sitting on the edge of the barrel. Unknown to me, the lid was slightly askew and when I sat down, the lid flew across the room and I folded like a taco and fell into the barrel. Needless to say, with my arms and legs poking directly from the top of the barrel and my behind deep inside, I could not free myself.  In fact, I couldn’t move. The room fell silent.  I know secretly they all wanted to laugh, but were afraid.  What could I do, but break into laughter.  There was an audible sigh from the students ant they helped me from my predicament.
                As an educator, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself or try something outrageous.  When students understand that even teachers make mistakes, laugh and move on,  they will less afraid to move beyond their comfort level and try new things.  It is okay to fail.  That is how people learn.  When you enjoy your job, your students will enjoy theirs.  You will be surprised how a little humor will improve their ability to learn.  By reducing stress, you are teaching students how to effectively deal with stress.  Don’t forget to laugh.