noun. the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech; a mood or state of mind.
One of the things I really miss about no longer working in a school and no longer teaching is the humour. No matter how stressful my day was, no matter how tired and under pressure I felt, I laughed every day, I laughed every lesson.
Humour is such an important part of human connection and relationship building. It is both a leveller and a currency in how we interact. Teaching is a hard job, schools are a stressful environment, the responsibility for others can feel overwhelming at times, but humour lightens everything. Humour gives us perspective.
My happiest jobs and my fondest memories of teams I have worked with, are of where we laughed regularly, no matter how tough the job was. The colleagues and the classes who made me crack up every time we met have a special place in my heart.
Yes I have had had stressful times in my career, but my journey as an educator has been punctuated by laughter and humour too.
“The only way to survive is to have a sense if humour”.
My 18 year teaching career found me working in tough schools, as an English teacher and as a leader, I found myself often with the trickier of classes. Bottom set Year 8 and the D/C borderline boys became my speciality. I worked out over time how to engage them, how to get them to behave, how to get them looking forward to lessons and how to to ensure that they made progress – my secret ingredient was humour. An injection of fun, not taking myself too seriously and the classroom banter meant that they enjoyed coming to class.
‘Banter’ is a word that gets bandied around a lot. It used to drive me mad when kids were upset at the ‘banter’ from others which was masking unkindness. Or when I was disciplining someone who just could not see how the banter was landing and being interpreted by others. But banter in its truest form, is when there is a mutual understanding and a shared respect, a camaraderie, and for me a sense of camaraderie keeps your spirits buoyant.
“A sense if humour is a sense of proportion”.
I can remember as a NQT coming back from lunch one day to find that my tutor group had cellotaped the entire contents of my handbag, item by item, individually to the ceiling of my classroom. They were waiting in anticipation for my reaction. Seeing board pens, lipsticks, keys and tampax hanging from my ceiling made me laugh out loud. I had to laugh, there really was no point in getting angry at 30 bored 16 year old boys who were testing me. The prank also gave me license to reciprocate when appropriate!
I love children’s innate ability to release the tension of a situation by doing something silly and making you laugh out loud, even when you are trying to be stern. It could be really annoying at times, of course, but it was usually harmless fun. There has also been many a moment in my career where I have been exercising mock anger to reinforce a message and get everyone back on track when something silly has happened and we have all dissolved into a fit of giggles.
The ability to be able to laugh at yourself and to laugh alongside others, not at others, is a skill that we do not focus on enough. A good sense of humour is a quality I really admire in others, it is a skill to be able to make people laugh.
“Humour breaks down boundaries. It topples our self-importance. It connects people and because it engages and entertains, it ultimately enlightens”.
At the moment, it is perhaps hard to have a sense of humour about some of the things we are dealing with and reacting to, but we need humour now more than ever. Humour should be a thread that runs through our days to keep our spirits up. I know which friends to ring when I need to laugh, they are a resource I tap into when needed.
As we consciously celebrate the micro moments of joy in our lives, let’s also intentionally seek out the moments of humour – the smiles, the giggles, the jokes and the laughter that will keep us going when we feel low and when things seem impossible, as life feels easier when we can laugh at it and ourselves.