Heard the one about….being an excellent teacher?

When it comes to maintaining classroom discipline, humour and a friendly approach work better than authoritarian teaching.

The report into what makes an excellent teacher was based on information about more than 3,000 three to 16 year-olds in England.

Its authors, academics from the Institute of Education, identified a range of factors underlying great teaching.  Some of these are familiar, including preparation, collaborative learning, sharing objectives with pupils and linking homework to what they are learning. Effective teachers adopt a conversational style and teacher-pupil relationships are characterised by warmth and respect.

However, when it comes to behaviour management in primary classrooms, the academics suggest that the use of humour is crucial. Even in ‘excellent’ schools where children are less likely to be disruptive the report states “…where teachers do need to correct behaviour, they use humour or a quiet reminder.”

And who knows – a sense of humour can even result in a brand new career. The Mail reports that teacher Emma Mitchell, who used to teach English, appeared at this year’s Edinburgh Festival as a naked stand-up comedian under the name Miss Glory Pearl. “Stand up is similar to teaching in a classroom in that you have to stand in front of an audience and command their attention,” she said. ”I’ve seen some of my former pupils at my previous shows. They think it’s great.”

Do you use humour in your lessons and if so what’s the response from your pupils?

10 thoughts on “Heard the one about….being an excellent teacher?

  1. We need to see this taken on board as soon as possible by school leadership. Where this doesn’t happen, local education committees should step in with training.

    We can’t expect everyone to get it all the time, but we can expect everyone make effort. Respect for ourselves, other human beings and the planet needs to be in everyone’s awareness at some level or another. There’s no point shouting at a kid to show respect; modelling respect in our everyday approach is most powerful tool we can use in our work.

    And there’s no point pretending respect by referring to our pupils as “young people”, in preference to “kids”, because, without modelling, it’s just disguising contempt which so many teachers display today towards the kids who need respect the most: those who have been brought up with disrespect.

  2. My Y6 students often comment on my terrible sense of humour! Thankfully the comments are usually accompanied by a large smile.

  3. It is obviously ‘taken on board’. The problem schools tend to be the ones where leadership have taken this approach to ridiculous extremes. And the intelligent among us will sure agree that a mixed approach of friendliness and sanction is clearly the most effective approach and should be balanced as the situation dictates. We can presumably agree that anyone who advocates one approach at the compete expense of the other can only be a simpleton.

  4. So a conversational humour laden approach is the answer to a group of kids, say a third of a yr 10 – 11 class intent on destroying the learning environment? Once you have established what you are there for and the need to focus, then you can try that. Where does the mates approach work with a group of yr 10 kids who’s response to using coloured pencils is to lob them at each other, and who use glue sticks as objects to adorn the ceiling?

  5. The sense of humour approach was best demonstrated when Michael Gove was appointed, I mean you looked at him and thought ‘They can’t be serious’

  6. Bernard M:
    You are right in having to fix some goalposts initially, but I find the humour method then works OK, particularly with younger students (I teach a sport) – or “nice coach, nasty coach”, a humorous variation on “good cop, bad cop”. I certainly don’t think of it as a “mates approach”, though, there have to be lines in the sand, and ultimately, there is a teacher/pupil (arm’s length) scenario to maintain, if things get tricky.

  7. Bernard, next lesson take some time to discuss safety, appropriate use of sharpened pencils, glue sticks etc. before the students have access to the materials.
    Elicit this information form the children as they know the rules and routines. Have the students role model correct and incorrect usage. Your could talk about costs of wasted materials, research cases where students were not only expelled but charged with assault for hurting someone by accident with a sharp pencil. ( I remember reading about a case in the news)Of course you don’t want to give them ideas. You know the students best. This age group act like five-year-olds at times, but can have a sensible discussion as well and love acting things out, being creative or having debates. Good luck.

  8. hahahaha that’s a laugh! Teaching is a humourless profession! Teachers, comedians, performing monkeys – come off it! The kids I teach judge our skills by the cars we drive. You should see them laughing when they see me parking my clapped out Corsa in the mornings!
    Bernard I love your point about Gove!

  9. An excellent teacher surely is one that is very knowledgable regarding subject matter related to not just procedural but conceptual knowledge as well; especially an individual that is not totally reliable on commercial subject schemes, for example maths, but is able to go well beyond the scheme’s limited conceptual scope. Communication skills as well as organisational capabilities are also major attributes and of course a sense of humour plays its part as well particularly considering teachers can be quite stuffy and perpetual moaners!

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