Ben Kissam is a writer, standup comedian, coach, and former middle school teacher. His blog, coachk.co, offers satirical advice for self-improvement and achievement.
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When the going gets tough, teachers find ways to laugh—at themselves, at a colleague, and sometimes, with (or at) students. Involving your students in the laughter can actually make you a better teacher. Humor can help students deal with stress, increase classroom cohesiveness, and even increase intrinsic motivation, according to Maryellen Weimer, PhD.
If you've been teaching for a while, you've probably built up a nice repertoire of teacher jokes that make your students laugh every time. Chances are that most of your go-to jokes fit into these categories below.
The dorky dad joke is exactly what you think it is. These jokes are so corny that you might feel embarrassed about laughing at them. But dorky dad jokes are like good wines: you don't appreciate them until you get older, and they keep getting better with age. Here's an example:
Student: "Hey, Mr. F., did you get your hair cut?"
Teacher: "No, Dylan, I didn't get a haircut. I got them ALL cut."
Sign You Nailed It: Half the class groans or rolls their eyes.
Further reading: 4 Funny Student Excuses from a Kindergarten Classroom
We've all had that day as a teacher. The lesson plan isn't going well, you receive a surprise observation, and there were 11 unread emails from parents in your inbox before first period. You're a little on edge, your patience is running thin, and the class wisenheimer makes a slightly insulting comment directed at you. Before you can stop yourself, you crack a sarcastic joke to burn them right back.
Sign You Nailed It: The snarky student looks stunned, the whole class says, "OOOOHHH BURN!" in unison, and immediately after your moment of glory, you think, "Well, I'll be getting an email from a parent tonight."
In the middle of a lesson, you tell a hilarious joke that any of your adult friends would laugh at. But none of your students get it. In fact, the looks on their faces suggest they think you're weird for saying it.
I call these "airplane" jokes because they go right over students' heads. And they leave you having to explain to 20 judgmental 14-year-olds that "maybe one day they'll appreciate such humor." Yeah, good luck with that.
Sign You Nailed It: You spend 30 seconds convincing yourself that it was a funny joke and that your students just "don't understand" humor yet.
Not every student loves your humor, but occasionally, you find a student who just gets you. So much so that they can build a punch line off something you say. Here's an example:
Teacher: "In today's lesson on World War II, you'll be summarizing 10 different points."
Student: "10 points for who? Gryffindor?"
Sign You Nailed It: You feel an urge to high-five your student, but you think twice and continue the lesson.
Learning to laugh at yourself is an essential teacher skill. Sometimes, a lighthearted joke helps you gain respect, engage students, and build relationships. But the "downer" is different. It's when you share something a little too true about yourself without thinking. It catches both you and your students by surprise. Now you've got to convince your class—and yourself—that you kind of have it together.
Sign You Nailed It: After a pause, the nicest, most positive kid in class says, "Aww, Mrs. T., that's not true!" Part of you is grateful for the kind words. But most of you wishes a student with a more neutral perspective said it instead.
Oh, how the years go by. Year one, your teacher jokes and references are current. Five years in, you find yourself saying, "Wait, you guys don't know what that is? Seriously?" more often than you'd like.
The "I'm Not That Old Yet" is a gem of an experience for a veteran teacher. You make a joke that references something trendy and hip, and you nail it. Students not only think it's a funny joke, but they give you props for delivering the joke in the right context.
Sign You Nailed It: A student says, "Ooh, nice, Mrs. C.!" Then you ruin it by doing a little dance and saying, "Yeah, that's right! I'm not that old yet, kids!"
Further reading: What Makes a Teacher Memorable
Which category do your teacher jokes tend to fall under? Leave a comment below and let us know.