Laughing Kids, Happy Teacher
As a middle school teacher, I was slightly apprehensive about the effect of watching a comedy video clip during the school day. As most of us who know and love adolescents are aware, these kids are already pretty animated! I wondered just how much more energy I wanted to generate in the classroom!
While this exercise did lead to a generally elevated energy level for most of the students, it also yielded some positive results that I had not anticipated.
The first time we tried this experiment, the students watched clips from a “funniest home video” type television show. I personally don't find these shows to be very funny, and the kids laughed a little, but not a lot. I found myself doing work at my desk or grabbing a cup of coffee, as the clips didn't really hold my attention.
Still, the students enjoyed our “laugh break” in the morning, and looked forward to snack time with extra enthusiasm because they knew that they would see the clips. As a result, the students were more energetic and animated than usual, but I also think that they were more optimistic, in general. Just having something funny to look forward to each day improved everyone's outlook.
The next time we did the experiment, I discovered something that both surprised and pleased me. This time, we watched Mr. Bean, a British comedian. If you haven't watched Mr. Bean, you should! He's really funny! After I decided to watch the video clips with the students, we watched, we laughed and then we talked about the different scenes and what we thought was especially funny, silly or just not very funny at all. What I came to realize, as I experienced sharing those moments with my students was that I really felt connected to them in a way that was quite different than what usually happens in a classroom. I think that it is easy for both students and teachers to be more aware of their differences than there similarities, given the nature of the relationship: teachers are in a position of authority and are usually much older than the students, who naturally identify with each other, not the teacher. Sharing the experience of laughing allowed us to forget, at least for a little while, those things that separate us. The wall between us, however briefly, disappeared. When we laughed together, we agreed that something was funny, and we shared the experience. For me, it was a bonding experience; I felt closer to my students than I had before. It was a wonderful feeling just to kick back and laugh with them!