Thursday, February 2, 2017

Laughter and Light

Despite it's brevity, February can feel interminable.  We arrive to work in the dark, and we leave in the dark.  Our students are restless. We're restless.  Spring Break is a distant dream.  But this time around feels different.  I'm not experiencing the same sourness I often do.  As far as I can tell, this can be attributed largely to 2 things: laughter and a student teacher.

Anyone who knows me knows that I laugh easily.  And anyone who knows me well knows that when I laugh hard, I bear the misfortune of a truly embarrassing laugh, one that catapults others into laughter at my laughter.  Meta-laughter. My best friend, bless her heart, once described it as the same sound a birthing pterodactyl might emit.  Specific, huh?  It's humiliating.  But I do it anyway.  I love to laugh.

Laughter is a cornerstone in my classroom.  I don't hesitate to share embarrassing stories, to razz a kid, to make fun of myself, or to share an anecdote.  In fact, I can't remember the last class period I've taught when we didn't laugh.  So I'm working on a theory.  Does February feel as brutal if we're making a conscious effort to laugh? When teachers and students laugh together, does it lessen the exhaustion and depression so entwined with February?  And if so, why?

I've learned a few things about laughter.  It is a universal language.  People rarely laugh alone -- they might smile, but laughter tends to be a vocal expression shared with others.  Laughter binds people together.  It's social.

We laugh a lot in my class.  It is never forced.  It's often deep.  One of my favorite -- and most challenging -- students recently delivered his first speech.  And it was comedy!  He didn't do a great job meeting the parameters of the speech, but he had the whole room rolling.  There was no shortage of personality.  My AP students say funny things every day.  They ask me to tell stories, most of which are ridiculous.  And so these dark days haven't felt so dark.  There's a lightness that doesn't dissipate when the laughter does.  Maybe the old adage is true.

My student teacher is also helping to stave off the February blues. She is wonderful and epitomizes everything we hope to cultivate in those entering the profession.  She is enormously sweet and kind and she laughs with the kids as openly as I do.  It's obvious that she feels called to do this work and is a natural.  Her eagerness, energy, and enthusiasm make it easy to want to come to work.  And she's grown so much already.  She's incredibly appreciative, which is lovely and makes me feel valued and important.  I feel a responsibility to show her how much there is to love in this work.  Of course I'm honest with her about the parts that aren't so pretty, but we have the power to choose what we dwell on.  I'm choosing to spend my energy to dwell on the best parts, most of which are accompanied by laughter.

It's easy to feel burdened this time of year, but when we make a conscious effort to laugh and to see the bright spots, we don't have to let this time of year beat us.  We can just shield our eyes and laugh together. Before long it will be spring.