A colleague of mine was wiping out an old work computer and found a video clip from years ago. In the video, students were participating in interviews unaware that their favorite teachers were dancing in the background like fools. As I watched this clip I was filled with a warm, familiar feeling that resonated with my “why”. In watching this video, I remembered a time when going to work was fun. Of course, time has a way of weeding out memories of those everyday stressors. However, like most things in life, you do not know what you had until it is gone.
Reflecting on my induction into this field almost two decades ago, I remember this motto: Monday through Friday are for students; Friday after school is for us! Inevitably, every Friday someone would send out an email just after lunch asking who wanted to go out for a “pop” after school. This time after school was filled with unhealthy food, a few beverages of choice, and laughter over the week’s events. It was usually only an hour or two, but it was an oasis in what often felt like an overwhelming week. It was also the soil in which humor would grow and carry over into the school environment.
This social network shielded me from the high stakes facing us in the classroom. It sent the message that no matter what had transpired during the school week I was not alone. I felt heard, understood, and valued by the only people in the world that “got it”. I developed lasting and trusting friendships that I still count on till this day to maintain my resilience in this unrelenting line of work.
One of the main reasons this tight knit culture is evaporating today is that few teachers are staying long enough to develop deep, meaningful relationships. Though I hate to admit it, I am now the “older” teacher in the building. Every year there are more and more new faces that seem to change out quicker than they used to. New teachers come and all too often new teachers quickly go, leaving that sense of community harder and harder to maintain.
As fast as teachers are changing, so are administrators. Every teacher will admit that administrators set the tone for the culture in their buildings. If that tone is constantly changing, as a variety of personalities enter and exit, the staff have a hard time settling in with a level of comfort that cultivates relationships and connections.
Even with the remaining staff, changes are often required due to the needs generated by turnover. It takes time for teams of staff to fall into a rhythm, to reflect, and perfect. If partnerships are constantly in flux there are limited opportunities for shared growth, success, and dare I say friendships to transpire.
Accomplishing this return to humor will take more than just organizing events outside of school. It calls on each of us to reach out and revive our inner child. Make it a point to start your day with something that makes you laugh. Share a funny clip, Tik Tok, or joke with anyone who may need a laugh as well. Be spontaneous and take a minute from arduous planning to play a joke on friends or to leave them a funny note.
Start the dominos by creating the kind of environment you would want to be in regardless of what is happening in the outside world. Be the shit umbrella for those around you to help your colleagues focus on what we can control. When the going gets tough, allow yourself the freedom to hit the pause button for just a moment and have FUN.
Finally, reach out to our new teachers. They are coming into education at one of the most trying times in recent history. Let them know that if they lose their sense of humor, they will be unable to preserve their light. Lead by example and give them the model that shows working hard and playing hard are both essential elements to being an awesome, resilient teacher.
Summing this all up is a quote by Charlie Chaplin, “A day without humor is a day wasted.” So, follow the words of the wise friends by getting out there this year and having some fun. Something tells me we are going to need it!