Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

A Blog for Teachers
by Mary Jean Powers

Laughter in the Classroom

Oct 4, 2021

 “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.” 

Dr. Seuss

Have you thought much about the importance of laughter?

I was invited to teach at an international school for two weeks. The students were from an indigenous Mexican Indian tribe whose culture did not externally express any emotion. The staff family I knew best had a full schedule during the first week, so I couldn’t spend time with them. Each day I taught classes, took afternoon walks, and fruitlessly endeavored to interact with the other staff.  I didn’t realize I was getting more depressed each day. Finally, my friends’ schedule cleared, and we were able to get together for dinner. No sooner had I stepped inside their house when someone made a smart-mouth remark and we all burst into gales of laughter … and that’s when I realized I hadn’t laughed in a week.

The oppression in that school was palpable. Yikes. Have you ever noticed how some people can be nice – even really nice – but heavy, and not necessarily fun? Ever noticed how tight your collar gets when you don’t have the freedom to laugh and make jokes? Ever noticed how quickly the scene can get Really awkward when your humor doesn’t translate … even into your own language?

I hate it when that happens.

When I CAN laugh, I do.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”  Victor Borge

As a high school teacher, I would always make the funniest kids sit at the front of the room. I didn’t want to miss one thing they said! We would sometimes lose 10+ minutes of a class period just laughing! Once the one-liners began to roll, it was hard to reel them back in, but the lesson always went better when we laughed together. It was Always worth it. Freedom to laugh alters the atmosphere in a classroom – I’m convinced that we all learn better when there’s genuine laughter.

When I was in 8th grade, I FINALLY got to attend school with my best friend of 6 years. She was one of the funniest people God ever made, and man, did we laugh (often at the most inappropriate of times)! Some of our teachers appreciated her humor; others did not. The deal was, Jane was brilliant: well-read, highly intelligent, quick to learn, teachable, hungry for knowledge … and therefore, easily bored in our mainstream classes. When Jane “misbehaved” in class, she was sometimes sent to the hall to sit in a desk by herself. One day our English teacher left the classroom door opened. Movement in the hallway distracted me and there was Jane – yes, still seated in her desk – bouncing it up and down the hallway, waving like she was on a float in a parade! Another day, she coughed during class, and then imitated a cough twice more while barking the words, “Cough. Cough.”  A few minutes later she dramatized a sneeze with, “ah AH AHHHH SNEEEEZE!” Right before the teacher sent her to the hall, she stretched her long arms and sighed, “Stre-e-e-tchhh.”

Jane made junior high bearable.

Perhaps you have already learned that, if we teachers don’t laugh at ourselves, our career-of-choice will be insufferably stressful. It’s just not worth it. When I was in my early 20’s, my friend, Joy, made it her mission to teach me to laugh at myself. How? By laughing At me. She loved me enough to laugh At me until I caught on that I was either being an idiot or that I really was a Very Funny Person. Most of the time I was being an idiot (note to self).    I MUST learn to laugh at my ignorance, my mistakes, my confusion, my inabilities, my bodily functions (burps, farts, stomach growls, etc.) that sometimes leak out no matter how hard I squeeze. And we can teach our students to laugh right along with us in a respectable way. To lighten up and join the human race, to be comfortable enough with our humanity to smile at our deficiencies – these create an atmosphere for safe learning.

“On average, an infant laughs nearly two hundred times a day; an adult, only twelve. Maybe they are laughing so much because they are looking at us.” I Ching

Please, please, please. I beg you: cultivate the fine art of humor! Plan fun activities, laugh hysterically at your students’ jokes, wear crazy stuff, lighten up, leave space for amusing stories, affirm wittiness. This upcoming generation may be suffering from too much entertainment and a lack of real-life interaction with other humans, but if laughter has been reduced to responding to a screen, we need to take more seriously our responsibility to create life and joy around us. Let’s reintroduce the joy of learning with all its humorous, lighthearted, and comical possibilities!

“The person who has a sense of humor is not just more relaxed in the face of a potentially stressful situation, but is more flexible in his approach.”  John Morreall


About Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

I am a teacher. You, too? I hope you love the profession as much as I do! I was 16 when I got my first teaching gigs – I had 20 private piano students and a Sunday School class of 4 and 5-year olds! At that point in my “career,” my definition of teacher was very limited. But now – after 45+ years of experience – I have come to realize that teacher can mean many different things. I’d like to share some of those insights with you! My posts will range from quotes to prayers, from cartoons to words of wisdom. Much of my teaching experience has been international, so you'll get to watch some video stories from around the globe. Jesus is the best Teacher I know, so I will be including Him in this blog, as well. I hope my thoughts and my story will encourage, provoke, and inspire you to become the teacher you’ve been created to be!

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Mary Jean Powers

Mary Jean Powers

B.A. in Christian Education
M.A. in Biblical Studies
Music teacher (band and choir director, private instruction) for 35 years
International Bible teacher for 17+ years
Certified Walk Thru the Bible instructor
Certified TESL International Instructor
CEU Provider for ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International)
Certified Life Coach and Chaplain

Who am I? A teacher coming alongside teachers!