Tuesday, April 21, 2015

That's not funny.

Yesterday I received an email from an old friend, who teaches in another district.  I don't often hear from Jean, but when I do, I know that the email will be filled with fun, or something thought-provoking.  This week's email did not disappoint.

A simple email message:

We asked the kids to create a painting based on a concern/message of their own. Be sure to check out the eyes!
It made me laugh!

This child is a third grader named Helen.  Check out the perspective she used on the desk and the testing paper.  Notice the eyes -- and the stressed out wrinkles.  I shared the picture with my high school students, and every single one of them admired Helen's message.


Humorology.


Do you think it is possible to teach people to locate and appreciate the humor in their world?  In the high schools across the nation, the final push is on in anticipation of Advanced Placement Exams in about two weeks, as teachers try to finish the required content, along with preparing their students for the actual exams through a series of practice writing assignments or simulation exams.  Kids are invested in this process because success on the AP exams translates, potentially, to college credits or higher-level placements.  (And the fact that their parents have shelled out $90 per exam is also a motivator...)

In Pennsylvania, Keystone exams in Biology, Literature, and Algebra are looming for 9th and 10th graders.  PSSAs are in full swing for grades 3 - 8.  The message?  Take these tests seriously, as your future depends upon success.

The future of their district, their teachers, and the curriculum as it exists now is also under scrutiny, depending on the success, or lack thereof, making it very difficult for anyone to relax and giggle a bit.

There is a value to Positive Psychology, and I believe humorology falls under that, with a bit of a twisted look at that which makes us smile.  Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania has quite a lot of research to support the value of positive thinking, and Sean Achor formerly from Harvard  and now CEO of GoodThink, never fails to inspire me with his talk of baby unicorns.  

Teaching humor, or positive thought, isn't enough.  It requires application and practice.
Maybe after all this testing, we'll have some time to practice it enough to make it real.