I am so grateful for humor every day in my classroom. It's one of the major ways I connect with students (or any audience) because it's the only thing that eases my nerves when speaking in front of a crowd.
I'm especially thankful for humor today. Because today I had to lay down some hard truths with my 8th graders over their Trimester 1 Finals, and humor is what stopped this conversation from being a giant-lecture-yell-fest. Yes, I still lectured them about the quality and effort (or lack of) in most of the drafts I responded to over the past week. I still confronted major issues and explicitly expressed my displeasure. But my use of humor kept it manageable for them, and in a way, I think it also made them take me more seriously. It's easy to tune out if someone is on a rampage, yelling at everyone for everything (not that I haven't done that before), but it's harder to ignore when the person is infusing tough love with humor.
When I said, "Similes are like hot sauce. You want a dash for flavor, not a trip to the emergency room," they realized they'd gone overboard and that it was an issue. When we overheard a sixth grade student in the next room (thin walls) shout out, "That's it! I'm done here!" I told them that kid was my spirit animal for the day.
When my principal came in for one of his random walk-throughs in the middle of this come-to-Jesus talk, they laughed when I said, "Don't think I'm going to stop lecturing you just because he's in here. He can't save you from my wrath!" It even got a smile out of him. I wasn't willing to pretend everything was perfect in my room just because he happened to walk in.
After I finished, they got to work. I'm reminded of the importance of responding to student work during the process rather than at the end: if this had been a few years ago, my frustration would have been higher, and a lot of kids would have earned poor grades in addition to that lecture. Instead, their response came with plenty of time to fix issues and work on the piece before it's graded, and I'm able to keep my head and use humor rather than anger to get my point across.
*Even so, my humor wore down by the end of the day. I was not nearly as humorous with the last group of 8th graders as I was with the first. Humor is one of my favorite teaching tools, but it has its limits.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.