“Don’t let them see you smile before Christmas.”
This advice is often given to new teachers. The thinking is that being strict and showing you’re in charge is the key to classroom management. However, in my opinion, it’s really bad advice.
You should let your students see you smile. Smiling shows them how much you love your job and how much fun art can be. I promise that smiling won’t cause you to lose all control of your classroom. In fact, simply smiling in your classroom can provide you and your students with some pretty significant benefits.
The article “Benefits of Humor” from PBS.org lists many. For example, through the simple act of smiling you can experience reduced pain and stress, increased creativity, increased self-esteem, elevated feelings of well-being, increased friendliness and group cohesiveness. In other words, don’t be afraid to have fun, be funny, and laugh at yourself.
When my students tell me they don’t think they should have to pay attention to famous artwork, I share my story of being in the Prado museum in Spain while in high school and NOT wanting to be there. I show them Las Meninas and Guernica and share how I was there, how I was standing in front of them, and how I didn’t even bother to look at them. Of course, this story is told with great flourish and leaves everyone giggling at how foolish Mrs. Carlisle, the art teacher, was to miss out at looking at some amazing artwork.
Over winter break, I ran into a former student who told me that she used knowledge from her 6th-grade art class to win a game at a family gathering. She started giggling as she reminded me of a funny story I had told while teaching contour line. I had told the class I had a microscopic bug driving a regular car, not a race car and not a bicycle, around my hand. My drawing was simply the path he took. This funny lesson stuck with her all through high school and into college. That made my day!
You are the art teacher, it is totally fine to be a little “different.” Embrace it. Rock it. The music teacher at my school is incredible at this. She has instituted “Polka Dot Tuesdays,” “Weird Sock Wednesdays,” and “Pink Thursdays.” The kids love it. She also turned her whole classroom into a theater before break while she was showing The Nutcracker. (Here I am in my Christmas tree skirt skirt by her Smart Board stage.)
By daring to be silly with her students, she has been able to create deep, meaningful relationships with them.
Welcome to “Ducklantis!” Earlier this year, a student had to spend some time sitting alone, and he dubbed his special seat “Ducklantis.” When I redid the seating chart and moved him back to the big tables, he was shocked to find I had labeled his big table as Ducklantis as well.
By the end of the week, everyone wanted to sit at Ducklantis. A simple thing turned into a fun part of the art room. It brings a lot of joy to the student who started it and to everyone else, too. Don’t be afraid to create these fun memories.
We all have students who make mistakes. Yelling, complaining, and punishing is not the best way to handle these situations. Check out this fun video by Tricia Fuglestad’s 5th-grade students where they tell the story of Sloppy Brush as a way to reiterate proper brush handling techniques. Using humor to teach or reteach rules and routines is much more effective than criticizing students every time they make a mistake.
We all know students sit around and talk about our classes; we do it to our old teachers! Using humor in your teaching and making your classroom a fun place to be will mean the stories your students tell are good ones. I don’t want to be the teacher whose former students shudder when they hear I am still teaching. I don’t want them to think I was a dull, stoic person years ago. I want to be the teacher former students remember fondly and hope their own children have. Humor helps make that happen.
Can you recall any funny stories from when you were in school?
What fun things to do you do to bring humor into your classroom?