A lesson on using humor in the classroom by Rob Scott, CS

First day discussion question: “List three things that you like about yourself or strengths that you have.”

Student Response:  “Teacher, it’s so much easier to find three negatives.”


Perhaps sometimes the teacher becomes the student.  I was looking for the lesson from this class which wasn’t clear until the end.  There is always a lesson.

This class had several strong personalities.

They taught me the importance of humor in teaching.  Perhaps we all learned something about humor.  We all shared some good laughs together which made the topics fun.

I even chose an article on humor which we read together as a class and then opened it up to comments and suggestions.  The article discussed the proper use of humor and cautioned that too much humor could lead to chaos and even  overshadow the lesson.  It also said that humor should not be forced and a person should be authentic to themselves.

One student then made a joke about people with disabilities and didn’t see anything wrong with it after several other negative comments.  After addressing the joke, it was discussed further in the opportunity section of the evaluation.  I found out later when this student missed a class that she had several struggles going on in her own life.  There are no problem youth only youth with so-called problems or challenges.  We all have something to work out.  Myself included.

But I felt uneasy towards the last few days of class as the humor and a few of the stronger personalities were overpowering the class, the message and a few of the students who were more shy.

Then something serendipitous happened.  An idea came to do an exercise where I asked them to write down what they liked most about the class and some opportunities for growth since there was no manual.  Thus the teacher has more autonomy in “Conversation Class” to chose their own videos and articles.  I just chose videos and articles on hope, leadership and happiness. We then reviewed the positives and opportunities for growth together and it cleared the air.

Next, I asked them to take out seven pieces of paper and write down a strength they see in their classmates and then deliver it to them.  I learned this in Dale Carnegie Sales Training. By the end of the activity their class mates each had seven examples of something positive their peers saw in them.

We went past our scheduled time that evening as each person read their list of comments to the class.  They were all smiling.  I was basically asking them to look for the good in each other.  This was important because during the first day I asked them in the hope exercise to list three strengths they see in themselves.  One student stated that it is so much easier to just list three negatives.

For the record, I met several of my former students in passing who went on to the next conversation class who stated it wasn’t the same.  They stated our class felt like “family” and they valued the topics on Hope which made a difference in their own lives.  A previous student stated he was grateful to learn about the power of hope and to never give up.  Another student thanked me for believing in him.  He is now in teacher training and told me this last week.

Some didn’t “get it”.  At least not yet but life has a way of being the best teacher.

Below is the list of strengths submitted to me by my class.  Interesting that they all mentioned how positive I am.  I share this in humility to show that hope is a journey not a destination for me.  I have to work on it every day.  There is an old church near the university and when it’s open I always go in and say “The Lord’s Prayer” before class.

So here is my list received from my students shown in the photo below.

1.  You are hopeful and respectful.
2.  You are an interesting and very positive person.
3.  Positive; You have your ideas very defined. Smart.
4.  You are a good teacher and I like your class even though it seems that I don’t [from the girl who seemed negative and made the joke about people with disabilities].
5.  You are very patient with your students.
6.  Good teacher; Good sense of humor; Responsible; Tolerant
7.  You are funny because in your class we are always smiling.
Truth, Wisdom, Love and Sincerity, to ALL Mankind,




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