If you asked my mother to tell the world’s funniest joke, she would somehow mess up its delivery. Yet, for decades she’s been sending humorous articles and cartoons cut from the local newspaper to her children. My mom proves that you don’t have to be funny to find, appreciate, and use humor.
Being funny is a requisite for comedians and humorists. Teachers don’t need to be funny to use humor as an educational facilitator. The challenge is finding and utilizing humor to achieve an instructional goal.
Educators who self-proclaim, “I’m not funny,” typically have a more refined humor palate. They are considerably more likely to select appropriate funny and less prone to committing the cardinal sin of overusing classroom humor.
Although a sense of humor is one of my strongest teaching attributes, being funny is also a liability – it fuels a chronic narcissistic desire for approval. When I get needy, bored, or tired while teaching, I sometimes slip into standup mode and use humor for pathological reasons rather than instruction purposes.
The mantra for instructional humor is “educate, don’t entertain.” It’s more important to be a good educator who finds and uses humor than to be the “funny teacher.”