Teachers often have a pretty good sense of humour, in fact I would go as far as saying it is an unofficial pre requisite of the job. Working with children can be quite hilarious at times and if you didn’t laugh you would certainly cry.
In my first teaching post the staffroom was, quite frankly, the best bit of the day. We would howl with laughter. Our noise far outdid any classroom hullabaloo. We were a small team, all women and a real mix of personalities and ages. One of our dear colleagues always amused us by whipping her break time tea bags out of her bra, along with her coffee money. We used to speculate, with humour, what else she kept in there.
Another entertained us with stories of her camping trips and how she disposed of her dirty laundry en route. When a similar tale appeared in the blurb of a book we took great mileage from her then infamous dirty knickers.
Of course we would laugh hysterically at the daily goings on – like the headteacher leaning against the radiator shouting, ‘ Right everyone, we’ll all go to the toilet in dribs and drabs,’ (which was already a rather bizarre instruction) whilst simultaneously, accidentally and less than elegantly, sliding into a heap on the floor.
Another, very well spoken, precise, older teacher told us the rudest joke I have ever heard.
Retrospective laughter was a plenty after the talent show with a typo where we anxiously awaited the Marital Arts display only to be relieved when the children appeared in their Judo kits.
In the staffroom we chatted, we laughed and we didn’t discuss education. We loved our jobs.
Gradually, as time went on, although the staffroom maintained moments of raucous laughter, the conversation took a more serious turn. We talked about phonics, rapid progression, spelling groups, tracking sheets and the staffroom slowly became a place where we discussed and talked and changed our practice. We enjoyed the debate but resented how that ate into our time for therapeutic laughter and we noticed we didn’t love our jobs quite so much.
Much later, I noticed my staffroom experience became the place of morning meets. Being seen in the staffroom during the day implied you had too much free time and there were hurried ‘hellos’, heads down and ‘could I have a word’ conversations. The laughter was saved for the end of the week. Our jobs were hectic and stressful and we weren’t so keen on them.
We all have different staffroom experiences, stories to tell and memories to share, but over the years I decided there is balance to be found. The conversations about education should take place, common understanding and collaboration is undoubtedly important – but there should be proper time set aside for this. A staffroom, with an uninterrupted break, comradeship and room for laughter helps teachers get through their tough day. The best jobs have all had a happy, humorous staff room in common. The laughter, the fun, the great relationships are, by osmosis, transferred to the children, just as the stress can be.
If you are a teacher try and bring some laughter to your staffroom if it is missing. If you are a leader, listen at the staffroom door and take a temperature gauge. Everyone will feel the benefit.