Monday, July 8, 2013

Why Part of Me Chooses to Still Reside in Middle School

Greetings Universe-

A pretty solid Twitter chat got the ball rolling on this one.  Hats off to #bcedchat as its maiden voyage was a success.  I should have smashed a bottle of champagne over my computer or something.  Props to @MsVictoriaOlson and @brynmw for getting the ball rolling.  Continue standing on guard for thee and and educating for all thy sons and so on.  Well done.

Anyways, in the back channels of tonight's chat, another idea surfaced.  Old Twitter friend @logan_ashlee and new Twitter friend @webby37 took part in an epic, epic, sci-fi reference dropping session that led to laughter.  It's almost 2 am, and honestly I still am getting a kick out of it.

And then someone, not me, realized that once again this type of discussion was entertaining.  So why not be productive with it.  What if as we discussed education, we spun it our way?  In this case, the nerd, pop-culture, high-tech, social media way.  Why not a #punedchat?  Why not a #refedchat?  Why not an #eduivoque (thesaurus'ed "pun")?  How about a #doubleedutendre?  But I digress, enough butchering of the English language.

If you don't think that being funny in your classroom is a huge advantage, then you are sorely mistaken.  Everyone has their own style and their own personality, but being funny is a way to connect with your kids.  And if you don't think that is important either, don't ever teach middle school.

I am a sarcastic, quick-thinking, pop-culture referencing human being.  Thankfully it plays in my classroom.  And that is why part of me stays in middle school.  It never left.  I share interests with 12-year olds.  They're into the fact that I love sports, video games, dodgeball, movies, stand-up comedy, and TV.  I also can't stand boy bands, which divides the house but leads to lots of jokes at the expense of Justin Beiber, One Direction, and my swooning female students who are just captivated with them.

Teasing doesn't work for everyone, but humor does.  You can't laugh too much.  It does make learning difficult at times, but when someone remembers what you said in class because of that really crazy thing you said before, during, or after, it's worth it.

So I look forward to the opportunity to try out my brand of me on my Twitter pals.  I'm just going to act like I do in a staff meeting:  borderline obnoxious, rarely quiet, yet surprisingly collaborative.  Take the good with the bad and just roll with it :)

But here's a few things that I have learned about making people laugh at my school:

1.  It starts with you.  I make fun of me more than anyone else.  There's a lot to make fun of.  Just realize your turn is coming too.  Share the love, but start at home.

2.  Know who you can give a hard time to.  I have some kids that I know are solid when it comes to playing along with my antics.  Others will stare me to death.

3.  Make cool things lame and lame things cool.  It gets a reaction.  For example, I rip on all those little teeny-boppers my kids talk about.  But then I make Aaron Burr shooting Alexander Hamilton seem awesome.  Plus we reenact it.

4.  Look crazy, but stay in control.  Anytime something doesn't work in my class, I've yelled at it.  I've thrown things at it.  Then I blame it on a kid.

5.  Use students in examples or as examples.  Demonstrate concepts using analogies and explanations with the kids in them.  Presidential succession is a lot more fun when I talk about how one crazy student killed another who was pretending to be President.

6.  Use their words to make your points.  I'm often talked about fascism as "nationalism on steroids."  I may have mentioned how the Hessians were "tipsy" at Trenton during the Revolution.  Harry S. Truman's middle name... It's just "S."  So when you tell the kids that his friends called him "Harry S.", you can't miss.

7.  Exaggerate.  Make conversations so much more than they are.  I make so many empty threats it's insane. Kids know I'm not going to throw them out a window or staple them to a bulletin board, but saying it is so much more fun than saying "please be quiet all the time."  They think it's goofy, and they listen more and pay attention to see what is going to happen when someone doesn't.  Not a perfect plan for everyone, but hey, works for me.

8.  Stay connected.  My kids talk to me through email and on Edmodo.  That's a great starter platform.  You get to think out being funny if you choose to be.

9.  Find colleagues that you can have a give-and-take with.  One of my colleagues will come into my room from time to time and I act like it is the biggest disruption in the history of education.  Then I will do it for her.  We also go into each other's rooms and critique what's going on just for the fun of it.  The old social studies vs. math routine works well.  I make fun of math as "something a machine can do" and she will tease social studies as "just stuff dead people did."  It's funny, the kids eat it up, and it also gives us a chance to explain why learning what we are teaching actually is worthwhile.

10.  References.  Last but not least, references.  Anytime that a reference to something kids understand can be made to what you are teaching is awesome.  Especially if it is funny.  A phrase, a song, a movie, a TV show, fashion, etc. can all be used to be funny.  Someone will get the reference, and if they don't get it, I usually go on a tirade of a tangent to explain it.

I remember one time I made a reference about how airplanes during WWI and airplanes today would be like comparing an Atari to an Xbox 360.  Then most of them were lost, because they didn't know Atari.  That was an immediate "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" moment from me.  I went on my tangent and we had to youtube Pong real quick.  I pretend to be angry, they think I'm nuts and laugh, and they can all tell you what they did in class today.  Guess what kid... you just learned something.

And if all else fails in your attempts, go back to #1.  Make fun of yourself for trying to be funny and failing and you'll probably end up being funny.

We can't all be the @sjunkins of the world with a quip locked and loaded at every moment, but we can all make a kid laugh.  That part of me stays in middle school, because if learning isn't funny, it's not fun to me.

And with that, I'm out.

Mr. J.

1 comment:

  1. love Love LOVE this. Excellent work, Brad, especially in regards to the first 2 points—kids gotta feel secure to "play" with you, so first you go after yourself, and then you "pick" on the ones who GET IT and won't break. Once I've established a rapport with that first group, I've noticed the not-so-jokey ones will still let me take a crack at them (once they come after me first). Then it's ON :-) [via the aformentioned @webby37]