Using Humor to Bounce Back From a Mistake

As art teachers, we spend countless hours creating, posting, repeating, and enforcing rules and expectations in our classroom. We create them for safety, efficiency, and to keep things in order. But, what happens when the art teacher forgets her own rules? This recently happened to me.

My school implemented a school-wide behavior program where teachers use common language. Students are expected to do their P-A-R-R-T. This acronym stands for Personal Best (P), Be an Active Listener (A), Be Respectful (R), Be Responsible (R), and Be Trustworthy (T). As a teacher, I am expected to post what doing your P-A-R-R-T looks like in my classroom. In previous years, students collaboratively decided what it looked like to do your P-A-R-R-T in art. This year, however, I created updated large-scale posters, hung them on the wall, and reviewed them with my students.



During the second class of the day, I started my presentation by saying, “P stands for participation.” The students looked at me kind of funny, and a girl raised her hand and said, “P stands for personal best, not participation.”
What? It does? Of course once she said it, and I took a moment to think it through, of course P stood for Personal Best. I’ve only said it more than 100 times in the past couple of years.

During this moment, I had two choices, I could feel embarrassed, or I could use humor and laugh at myself. I chose humor. The students and I laughed together for a couple of minutes and moved on to our activity.

That evening, as I browsed the facebook world, I saw a post Jessica made that morning. She asked AOE’s facebook readers how they stay calm in the art room at back-to-school time. People commented using humor helps. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I read this because that very morning my students caught me red handed, and luckily like the AOE readers, I chose to use humor.

Have you ever embarrassed yourself in front of your students? What did you do? 

Are you a fan of using humor in the classroom? 

Cassidy Reinken

This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • Matthew Martinez

    Whenever there is a typo on the instruction sheet that I have for the students and I verbally say them, I just say it how it is typed. the funniest one was having elephants of art instead of elements of art. I don’t know why I spelled it that way. We had a good laugh about that. Sometimes if it is unpronoucable, I skip letters and say that that those letters are silent.

    • That’s funny Matthew! I always write the word “judget” when I mean to write “judge.”

  • Vicky Siegel

    Definitely laugh. It wasn’t really a mistake, but a student with autism bent down and kissed my arm during a demonstration. (It was actually a big step for him- since he loved his own space!) I tried to keep going, but a couple of students started giggling, and then we all couldn’t stop. I just had them go back to their seats and get to work! I couldn’t keep demonstrating and laughing at the same time! :)