We became teachers because we're excited about learning and want to inspire our students to become the amazing people they were meant to be, Right? So why, then, don't teachers embrace their own funny, exciting, and sometimes crazy characteristics and inject humor in the classroom? Are we embarrassed? Scared? Are we afraid that our students will lose respect for us if we unleash the quirkiness that lies in our teacher souls?
Fear not! According to the National Education Association, "When teachers share a laugh or a smile with students, they help students feel more comfortable and open to learning. Using humor brings enthusiasm, positive feelings, and optimism to the classroom."
That's a Rap
During my seventh year in the classroom, I was teaching the concept of federalism in my American government classes, and my students just weren't getting it. In a moment of desperation, I said, "Would it help if I rapped it?" Never in a million years did I expect their response to be a resounding "YES!"
Further reading: 4 Funny Student Excuses from a Kindergarten Classroom
People, I am not a rapper. I can sing a tune or two, but rapping is not in my repertoire. But, here I was, with 20 sets of adolescent eyes waiting to see what I would do. On that day, we all witnessed the birth of my alter ego: Petty Wap.
With this character in place, I dove right in and rapped about federalism. Do you know what happened next? My students actually got it! Soon, they were asking for a "live Petty Wap" concert daily to help them understand government concepts.
I've performed more than a dozen raps about American government concepts and information. My first rap was completely created on the spot. In fact, all of my raps are made up during the same class period that I perform them, and I enlist the help of my students. Simply communicating information with a catchy beat encourages my students to feel connected to the content, and they're more likely to remember it.
The Benefits of Humor
You may be asking yourself, "How in the world does a teacher (badly) rapping help students understand the content?" When I sprinkled my curriculum with a dose of humor, I noticed that my students became more engaged in what I was teaching in class. If I have to act a little crazy to make more of my students feel like they're in an exciting learning environment, then so be it! I realized then that while I may not be able to get all of my students to love the topic of government as much as I do, I can get them to enjoy my classroom environment. Using humor in the classroom has helped me do just that.
Further reading: What Makes a Teacher Memorable
Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I want my students to feel excited and engaged in my classroom, and you probably do too. So let loose and have some fun. And if you need any inspiration—or just want a good laugh—check out some of my videos on YouTube!