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Getting By With Laughter
by Shani Jackson

Yesterday was a bad day. Well, bad is possibly an understatement. A brief example of the terror that was yesterday -- I have a student, Chelyn Guerra. Chelyn loves to speak without permission, hates doing work, and loves attention -- but for making inappropriate jokes, annoying teachers, and disrupting class. So after Chelyns third time calling out, I was not ready to acknowledge her a fourth time. Miss, miss! She kept calling out. Miss! I need to tell you something!
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I finally acknowledged her. Chelyn, I reprimanded, When you raise your hand I will acknowledge you. I continued teachinguntil I heard a gasp in the room. Who gasped!?! I demanded. (Gasp probably is not typical seventh grade vocabulary, but I sometimes forget Im talking to 12 year olds.) My anger is apparent. Finally Chelyn motions me for come to her level. She whispers, Miss, your zipper is down. Yes. Ive flashed the seventh graders on the North Side of Houston.

I quickly raised my zipper, flashed my kids a smile, and joked I guess sometimes I need to listen to yall, huh? Thanks, Chelyn. For better, and sometimes for worse, humor like this enters my classroom daily -- and most days every period. I encourage my students to take risks and make mistakes in my class, so weve all learned to be okay with, and laugh at, imperfection.

With six class periods and more than 140 students, I have learned to enjoy the lighter moments. There are many of them. In first period Id joked with my student Rudolfo about one of his little mistakes. My students are working on a Mini-Me project as we work on the concepts of scale and proportion. They are scaling themselves down to create a miniature version of themselves. The first step in the project was for students to make a supply request. As such, I asked my students to fill out a survey outlining what color butcher paper they wanted to use for their Mini-Me. Most students wrote colors typically found in the Basic 8 Crayola box -- Red, Brown, Black, Yellow. But Rudolfo wrote Hispanic.

So much laughter in one classroom might be frowned upon by some. Im sure we spend at least one minute per 55-minute period laughing -- sometimes at my mistakes, sometimes at theirs. Sometimes at a clever comment, sometimes at a silly one. Im okay with it. The funny moments keep me sane, and keep the students comfortable. And if a comfortable place where students can be whoever they are -- whether they love Pokemon or love watching rap videos that I dont love -- is what it takes for them to learn, that 1 minute per period is okay with me.

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Emma McDonald: New Teacher Advisor
  • Special Theme Page: New Teachers

    Article by Shani Jackson
    Education World®
    Copyright &copy 2006 Education World

    Posted 10/23/2006