Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Teacher Humour: Part 1

It's that time of year when teachers of all ilks either trot out their wackiest, most surreal, and ephemeral humour or grab an early ticket to the funny farm. Last week of classes for high schools. Weather's (more or less) nice out. Holidays are on the horizon. Who needs to worry about final exams? Herding cats would be a walk in the park compared to trying to get a class of teenagers to focus on essay-writing, math formulae, and scientific principles.

Two of my favourite shirts are the ones I picked up while attending UBC in the Faculty of Education. For the most part, I wear them stealthily to school, usually covering the back by wearing a jacket or hoodie.

Today's shirt amuses me because the term "teacher voice" has such a negative connotation. The "teacher voice" most people think of comes from the gut, projected loud and strong, and is expected to be an admonishing diatribe or instructional monologue that brooks no negotiation.

The thing is: most teachers I know and respect don't need to use that voice on a regular basis. Yes, the successful ones have it in their toolkit but it's a band-aid solution for the occasional moment of mob insanity in the classroom. A teacher who is always using the "teacher voice" soon discovers that it loses its effectiveness as students develop a tolerance for it.

Teachers' voices are powerful things but they don't need to be loud to be heard, they don't need to be nasty to be corrective, and they certainly don't need to be condescending to educate. Getting students to think often needs a productive silence as much as a trivial lecture. More than mastering the "teacher voice", an effective use of wait time can be the key to classroom management, more engaged students, and successful learning.

Of course, having a sense of humour (whether or not your students truly appreciate it) is ultimately the secret to sanity as the school year wind down. For example, when I taught academics, nothing brought a smile to my face as much as a major exam in the last class of the year. No bazinga about it.

I've got a Part 2 in the works for this but thought I'd end this post with one of my favourite videos by a teacher for teachers and anyone who has ever known/loved/feared teachers. Now this guy, Taylor Mali, has a TEACHER VOICE.