How do you stop a dog barking in the back seat?
That was the “Joke of the Day” in my classroom today. After our morning routine – lunch, attendance, etc. – we start each day with a joke. I generally get these jokes from a website, and my family even got me a Silly Jokes for Silly Kids book for Christmas.
This all started accidentally over a year ago. Before a math lesson, I shared a joke my then nine-year-old daughter told me the night before. My students loved it and shared some of their own. We spent the next few minutes telling jokes and laughing before our math lesson.
All of a sudden Joke of the Day was born. I didn’t think much of it at first. The jokes were just something to make us laugh before math. Then, after they had a substitute, I asked my students about their day. They told me everything was great except the substitute did not have a Joke of the Day. (I had to admit that it was an oversight on my part.) That was when I first realized this simple task meant something more to my students.
At the end of the school year, I had them write letters to my next group of students. It was the typical letter to the next year’s class – what they will like about the classroom, what they’ll learn in fourth grade, expectations, etc. I was shocked to read the letters. Almost every student mentioned something about the Joke of the Day.
This experience made me realize how important the “little” things are to our students. I say “little” because the Joke of the Day seemed like something trivial to me. To my students, however, it was something much more. The jokes helped ease anxiety for some, brightened the mood for others, and simply made a few kids laugh.
I still remember, more than thirty years later, how my fifth grade teacher started each day with a riddle. They were these brain teasers he wrote on the board and gave us some time to ponder. It was so much fun trying to solve them before my classmates. I can’t tell you if I would have been proficient on any high stakes testing that year, but I can still recall some of those riddles and the sense of pride I had solving them.
It might not be a joke or a riddle. Maybe it is a high five you give students when they enter the classroom. Maybe it is asking them what they did over the weekend. Maybe it is playing kickball with them at recess. There are moments outside of the curriculum our students need – really need. Teaching is a critically important profession. Helping a student learn through quality curriculum, instruction, and assessment is unbelievably powerful and life changing. We ask a lot of our students throughout the day. Why not take one moment to tell a joke and make a student smile?
So how do you stop a dog barking in the back seat?
You put him in the front seat.