Creating Humor in the TPRS Classroom

This is taken from comments made on the blog post “Go Willingly”. I wanted to create a category – called “Humor” – for it so that I could remember that I don’t have to be a clown in my classroom:
The smallest things, looking at a coffee, can be hilariously funny. We miss that in this land of comedy clubs and forced humor. We don’t have to be funny and we don’t need their approval as if we were some kind of clown. The humor does not lie within us alone.
The humor does not lie within us alone.
Moments of humor lie hiding like seeds in this thing we call language. Those seeds have been there, waiting, for hundreds of years, but we have ignored them in our desire to make language instruction a conscious process. We crush humor in our classes by not letting the language sprout. Humor comes from below, it wells up in us. We don’t laugh because we reflect on something. That is for Spock and Dwight Schroot.
Now, here in TPRS, we have a way of letting life take care of itself. We slow down and see what happens. We don’t try to command We just need to listen to the CI with (alongside) our students. We are not different from our students. We are as vulnerable as they are.
We miss it all, we miss it all, we miss it all, because we don’t trust slowly circled personalized sentences to be be enough. Surely TPRS can’t be that simple! But Michele proved what Laurie said. She went slowly and it, as Laurie said, was MORE funny, MORE compelling.
Yes, we are teachers but no, we are not teachers. If that is what I have been then that is not what I really wanted to have been, to have become, all these many years. I hated teaching. I just wanted to be able to hang out with my students and share a meal of tasty French words with them.
I never wanted to be a teacher. That is a hard ass job. People die doing it. That is why NTPRS is more like a campout with hundreds of your best friends. We’re trying to figure out a way to be ourselves, and we have found this way and it works so get over us.
I never wanted to be a teacher. Teachers always made me feel small. They were phony in that, commanding the room like a bully, laughterless. No, all I ever wanted to do was be happy in my classroom.
And when, finding myself needing a job a teacher, I became a teacher. It took decades, but one day that sparkled I finally surrendered to the reality that I can’t manufacture happiness (humor’s twin) by being a really good TPRS teacher. That is part of the lie, that we have to be slick at TPRS.
Having given that lie up, that I had to be slick, the happiness became a player in my teaching, popping up in the letting go of all of this TPRS striving. Then in my classes, little scenes like staring at coffee and watching you sleep outside of a tent in a cardboard box in front of 70 people in Maine last fall, Skip were there and we laughed together as we created them. I didn’t come up there to be with your kick ass – authentic – Maine colleagues (can anyone say Anne Matava?) in order to be phony. YOU and the others in our session made you sleep outside of that tent that night. I had nothing to do with it. Seeds sprouted because I went slowly enough – that’s all. Humor was there, in the creation, not in us per se.
We miss it all, we miss it all, we miss it all, because we don’t trust slowly circled personalized sentences to be funny. But Michele proved what Laurie said. She went slowly and it, as Laurie said, was MORE funny.
Skip, my brother, you are not responsible for making it all happen. That is why I love languages so  much. Words contain, of their own accord, just because they are there, happiness, just like flowers do (Thích Nhat Hanh) and just like anything does. We need merely do what Laurie said in point #2 above –
…simple things… slowed down the PQA added even more….
OK now I’m on a roll and apologize but Janet sat there in one of my sessions holding her little package and I asked about five times what color it was and the class rejected the first four – and then when I said purple they all nodded their heads and Janet did too and she was immediately happy. We had found the right color! The color that made the class and Janet happy. Ande we reveled in that fact, and in that package.
Of course, I was doing the slowest circling of my life in those moments – thank you Linda! Laurie saw the whole thing because she was my teacher mind during that session, explaining things to the teachers attending my session and sparing me that job. Get it? By going slowly, the special little package that was purple (I’m talking mini mini excessively mini package.), came to life and then, had it been a real class, Janet would be Janet with the mini mini mini purple package and been recognized as important and thus personalized until another name for her emerged organically during the year. Hope that is clear. I’m glad Janet wasn’t a guy.
Conclusion – just go slowly and trust that good things will happen. See the root of the word happy in happen? That’s how it is. OK rant over. Maybe we can all finish our careers, our lives perhaps, with what we learn from our careers, that we don’t have to go so fast; we don’t have to worry so much….



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