William Chamberlain is one of my favorite teachers on Twitter. He is bold, humble, relentless, and unabashedly curious. The other day he tweeted this out, so, as a joke, Philip Cummings and I both turned these into “inspirational” quote images for tweets.
As I think about my oldest son moving into middle school, my hope is he has a few teachers like William Chamberlain. I hope he runs into teachers who go the extra mile in something beyond just the teaching to the standards. I hope he has teachers who take learning serious enough to not take class so seriously.
Which has me thinking about the benefits of being goofy in class. Here are a few that come to mind:
#1: Being goofy increases student engagement.
I have never seen a student doze off while laughing. It just doesn’t happen. Well-timed humor can do to a lesson what it does to a book, movie or conversation – break things up. I would love to claim that all of my lessons are amazingly engaging. However, the truth is that there are lulls and being goofy can spice things up. It’s a sort of preventative classroom management element.
#2: Goofiness creates a climate of joy.
When I taught middle school, I kept a white board where students can create visual puns. Most of the time, I’m the one drawing goofy wordplay puns. Examples include “Everyone loves me. I’m the most poplar tree in the forest” or a picture of “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cop,” a candy dressed like a police officer or “Everybody loves slow jams,” with a giant jar of jam running a marathon. These moments of goofiness had no curricular tie-in. They were just there for the sake of it. Weird. Quirky. Goofy. But vital.
#3: Being goofy pushes critical thinking.
William Chamberlain is one of the deepest thinkers I know of. That small example he shared is an example of his wit and his willingness to think on the spot. When teachers are really good at being goofy, they create a playful side of critical thinking.
#4: Being goofy allows you to be serious.
There’s a reason epic stories use comic relief. By engaging in humor, the author creates and “up” that allows the reader to delve deeper into something darker or more tense. Think of the Harry Potter series. Her use of humor (especially in the first few books) allowed the books to delve into some dark topics. I think the same is true in schools. We sometimes touch on some hard topics (especially in journalism) and once we’ve laughed together we are more likely to be comfortable with hard conversations. When a teacher is goofy, humorous, and quirky, it can create a safe space where you can then be serious.
#5: Goofiness models positive risk-taking.
I once drew a treble clef with the words, “I knew you were treble when you walked in.” Nobody laughed. Nobody got it. However, what that proved to my students is that I am willing to take a risk with humor. True, there are bigger risks a teacher can take (standing up for students, speaking out against hate, being humble when making a mistake). However, this is a small way to model risk-taking for kids.
#6: It proves you are human.
When a teacher is goofy, it breaks past the mask of professionalism that can prevent students from viewing you as human. You smile more. You laugh more. And we need to laugh, because we are human. It’s a part of who we are. When we laugh, it reminds us that even though learning might be serious, we are able to take ourselves lightly. We are able to let loose a little. In the process, we grow closer and learning becomes more holistic.
#7: Goofiness models appropriate creativity.
A year ago, I put up a to-do list for Darth Vader. It included ideas such as “build a death star,” “get my asthma medication refilled,” “dry clean my robe,” and “do hot yoga.” It was goofy for sure, but it was also creative. As a college professor, I’m still goofy. I still act the same way. Yes, I deal with graduate students. Yes, I take my job seriously. But when I can be goofy, I get the chance to model a creative approach to teaching.
#8: It affirms kids who have been shamed.
When a teacher chooses to be goofy, students see the message that it’s okay to be weird. They see that quirkiness is a good thing. Many students have been shamed for being too loud, too quiet, too different, too odd, too nerdy, too . . . whatever. But this is a chance to say, “I’m unabashedly different and that’s a good thing.” Moreover, goofiness can send the message that you don’t take yourself too seriously. It can be disarming. It can make you more approachable.
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