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(Micro)Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Should teachers try to be next Mel Brooks or should they concentrate on spreading as many moments of micro-happiness as possible?
By Michael Fehon
(Micro)Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Often we may hear students talk about the teachers that they remember with a sense of fondness. We hear words like “passionate,” “knowledgeable,” and “caring.” I would like to discuss another favorable attribute: humor. But more specifically, little laughter, or small moments of joy.
International teachers understand that for our students, the day is long. Often students are surviving on six to seven hours of sleep, with barely none to minimum exercise and an overall program that is less than stimulating. Some cynics may suggest this is a perfect preparation for modern corporate or family life, but I like to ask myself, how much joy and happiness do teachers spread to students during the day? And how can we maximize those moments of microhappiness?
Like Huckleberry Finn and his strong desire to “go fishing rather than schooling,” so many of our students would rather be someplace else. Students may be virtually absent with the mind and will elsewhere, whether it be shopping, playing computer games, or hanging out with friends.
I firmly believe that moments of microhappiness play a vital role in helping students to sustain their focus throughout the semester. Now I would like to share some of my hints and would like others to comment on how they achieve moments of microhappiness or joy.
Some ground rules: I am not looking for big laughs. Having to maintain order in the classroom when young people are still stimulated after a hilarious lesson or hearing loud screams from a nearby area is something no teacher wants. I also feel it is important to check your sarcasm when you do this. Here are some things I do:
• Give an extra-boisterous “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon”
• Pretend to be angry with a student when you have privately congratulated him or her
• Speak in different voices/accents depending on the work we are doing
• Conduct classes in complete silence
• Draw smiley faces in students’ notebooks
• Allow for comical interpretation in classwork, as long as learning objectives are met
• Offer terrible artwork on the whiteboard...
When we give a small moment of joy to a student, it contributes to having that young person maintain a level of engagement and motivation. After all, there are so many distractions out there, whether it be from social media, movies, or a less-than-desirable family life.
As educators, we have to do what we can to ensure the environment we control is as warm, exciting, and full of as many tiny moments of joy for our students as possible.
How do you spread little moments of joy, and how does this practice make you feel?

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