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Humour in the Classroom


John Simkin
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I thought it might be a good idea to post funny stories that have happened to us in the classroom. For example, I remember my first day at a new school. My first lesson was with a brand new Y7 history class. I was held up by a fellow member of staff and the class was already seated when I arrived. I strode into the classroom and immediately fell straight on my back (the floor had been heavily waxed during the holidays). As I lay on the floor I realized there was complete silence. The point was, they did not know me and were too scared to laugh. Still laying on the floor, I said: “It’s alright, you can laugh.” This they did for several minutes. I enjoyed a really good relationship with this class and I often wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that I was able to tell them I did not mind them laughing at me.

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I used to have a habit of saying at the end of the lesson “place your textbooks on the table as you go out”. However, I normally did not use the word textbooks. Instead I would refer to the author, therefore: “place your Culpin’s on the table as you go out”.

I began using a new textbook with my Y10 GCSE Sociology class. It was written by a man called Jack Nobbs. You can imagine what happened at the end of the first lesson using the new textbook. It was the first and last time I used that phrase at the end of the lesson.

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Mr Williams - the Chemistry teacher at the first school I worked at - had a great true story of when he was a probationer in a tough school in Liverpool. For his first lesson he decided to do the 'drop a bit of sodium in a tank of water' demonstration. Unfortunately, a freak accident occurred and the tank cracked. A tidal wave of water swept the jar of sodium on to the floor, and he did the 'drop a bit of water onto a jarful of sodium' instead - which resulted in the Science wing catching fire.

The next week his tough class were all eager to see what he would do next! And in the middle of the lesson, the police walked in and took him away for questioning. His reputation was then made in that school.

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Humour properly deployed (as opposed to combat sarcasm which is destructive), is actually an essential tool (not a reference to a sociologist this time ;) ) for the successful teacher.

When they laugh they are probably at their most open and receptive. The real enemy to learning is pupil stress. Stressed pupils are thinking about fight or flight rather than the content of your lesson.

I bet old Simkin had a really successful lesson when he went stumps over apex. I am chuckling just thinking about it :lol:

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I bet old Simkin had a really successful lesson when he went stumps over apex. I am chuckling just thinking about it ;)

This is rather reminiscent of what happened to me only a matter of hours ago. Today was my Games afternoon with Year 7s and due to the inclement weather, it was held in the sports hall. The students were instructed to do some circuits, involving sit ups, press ups and other such activities. One of these other activities involved them jumping over a small plastic hurdle. One of the less able athletes was finding this activity quite a challenge, so of course I proceeded to demonstrate to him what was required. I did so three or four times, but then I made the fateful decision to show my prowess one last time. Unfortunately, I landed on the hurdle, fell awkwardly and twisted my ankle badly. Credit to the boy who witnessed this sorry episode, instead of laughing he appeared to be in a state of shock. I'm sure I'll see the funny side of this episode given time, but at the moment I'm just trying to bear the pain of having a bag of frozen peas attached to the side of my foot. I can hardly walk but I'm sure I'll get lots of sympathy tomorrow! :lol:

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A senior moment:

"You know you're just like your sister."

"But I don't have a sister, sir."

"No but if you had one you would be just like her."

I forget things. This is not actually senility I have always had a poor memory. In particular names, my car number, make, mileage and colour but mainly names. However one colleague did outdo me one flustered morning.

Late for registration she found a boy whose name she had forgotten had brought it in for her.

"Oh you are an angel...(she paused slightly having suddenly remembered his name)...Gabriel."

He never liked her after that :lol:

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Wasp up the trouser leg.

Teaching a low ability class science – the creature made it to my kneecap before detection.

The jumping, dancing and attempts at squashing the insect through the material before it stung again went unnoticed by the class.

The technician was highly amused.

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Great thread---I've got a good one. About ten years ago I was a paid tutor in the drop-out prevention program in Kentucky. I worked for a literacy foundation and we taught the roughest discipline problems, tenth and eleventh graders (15-16), and they had many F grades, skipped 80 days a year, pregnant, etc. None of them were allowed in their regular classes, so I got them. Every Friday we had special guests who talked about their professions. One week we had Rappers talk to the class, and this disgusted the Ph.D. in charge, so next Friday I was on my own when we had an Author come in. The Author was on a book tour and had written "Ranch-hands are my Weakness" a popular book about her promiscuity. I will paraphrase:

"It's great being a writer, you make lots of money and get to fly around. I met a man at a party and told him about my book, and the next thing I knew I had a book in print and it was a big best seller. On the plane here I was sitting next to a young man, about your age, and I asked him what he did. He said he had dropped out of school to become a male prostitute! I meet the most interesting people now that I am a writer...he was very sweet and good looking."

Opening her book she began to read to my class:

"Buffalo skins or blankets? I realized he was asking me what I wanted to sleep on, and I said Buffalo Skins. He climbed on top of me. It is so glorious to be F%#@ed by a cowboy, with their hard skin and thin legs, he was on top of me, F%#@ing me harder and harder, then the phone rang and I could hear the caller leave a message, she was jealous, she knew I was F%#@ing her cowboy and that made me feel even better as I spread my legs wider....."

The class was frozen in shock. All I could do was glare at them. Don't laugh, my face said to them, don't even giggle. They sat quietly until the Author left.

True Story.... Later, my paychecks were running three weeks late and I went to the school board to find out what was going on and they told me I wasn't an employee. It turns out the Ph.D. was paying me in Purchase Orders and I never got my final months pay........what a nightmare...

Edited by Shanet Clark
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Probably my most embarrassing moment as a teacher - but funny too:

I had just returned from a school exchange trip to Germany with a party of 20 children and decided to arrange a party for staff, children and parents to show colour slides, talk about the trip, etc. I got three of the sixth-form girls who accompanied me on the trip to make the arrangements, contacting parents, ordering refreshments, etc. The one thing I had forgotten was to tell them in which room the party would take place. On the day of the party one of the sixth-form girls knocked on the door of the classroom where I was teaching a 4th-form German set, and popped her head round the door asking, "Sir, where are we going to have it tonight?" The whole class dissolved into laughter, and it took me some time to gain control.

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When I was teaching in Dartford, we had a visit from a sister school in Delaware. Each class had an American visitor attached to it, so one lesson I asked my fourth-year boys if they had anything they'd like to ask their visitor (who was about 2 years older).

The hard man put his hand up and asked, "Do you like fags?", in an eager tone of voice.

I had quite a lot of explaining to do afterwards to try to convince the American that all this stuff he'd heard about single-sex schools didn't necessarily apply.

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Not really humour in the classroom, but humour in school:

I was invited to a modern foreign languages open day at St Paul's Girls’ School, London, during the 1980s, where I gave a presentation on interactive video. A number of teachers and students of languages from a Baptist college in the USA had also been invited to attend the open day. During lunch the High Mistress (sic), the late Baroness Brigstocke, circulated among the tables, all of which had been supplied with ample quantities of (rather good) French wine. She stopped at my table, which I was sharing with several of the American teachers, and was surprised to find two or three unopened bottles. The Americans were all drinking water.

"Oh!" the High Mistress exclaimed in her wonderful cut-glass accent, "I thought one of the reasons for studying foreign languages was that it gave one an excuse for travelling to countries where one could sample the local wine".

She was a great character, with a great sense of humour. Sadly missed.

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I used to have a habit of saying at the end of the lesson “place your textbooks on the table as you go out”. However, I normally did not use the word textbooks. Instead I would refer to the author, therefore: “place your Culpin’s on the table as you go out”.

I began using a new textbook with my Y10 GCSE Sociology class. It was written by a man called Jack Nobbs. You can imagine what happened at the end of the first lesson using the new textbook. It was the first and last time I used that phrase at the end of the lesson.

I too used to teach Sociology in the 1980's and the two textbooks were by Selfe and Nobbs. We often started the class (mixed) by saying either "Get your Nobbs out" or "Get your Selfe out. Such ribaldry at the beginning of the lesson somehow broke any tension, and learning proceeded with good humour (or so I like to recall).

B Jones

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Greetings All:

For 5 years I taught math and science to a special education class comprised of convicted felons who were ordered by the court to complete their high school education through the GED program. Talk about a tough class :D so as a way of breaking the ice with each new class as it were I came up with the following strategy:

I would bring into class a single cowboy boot and hat. I would place the hat on the boot and set them on my desk and without any comment I would start going about my usual business of introduction by writing my name on the blackboard along with some biographical details and such. Eventually a student would ask what the hat and boot were all about and my reply would be: "Hell, I just wanted to show you all what your teacher looks like with all of the BS kicked out of him."

Worked every time ;)

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When I was teaching in Kent, the Head was called Mrs Dagger (true) - she was a small blonde powerdressing bombshell who overused the PA system - she used to bring classes to tears of laughter when her voice would suddenly break into the class with her uppercrust accent: if Mr Jones is about I'd like him to give me a buzz please! She apparently never realised the double entendre.

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