There has been a recent rash of puns spreading around one of the schools I sub at. It has infected kids at all grade levels from 5 to 12. Of course, being called in to teach occasionally, I happened to walk into this contagious disease with no warning and no defence last Thursday and Friday.
My kids tried to infect me twice with puns on Thursday. Unfortunately, I was rather vaporous on that day, so I did not catch on to either attack and thwarted the jokes.
The Mistaken Challenge
The first attack came from my Science 9 students. I can not remember the pun and ruined the joke anyway. The students grudgingly revealed what they were trying to get me to say (without getting in trouble). I remember being glad I didn’t. My guess now is that the pun must have been inappropriate to school anyway.
(At this point, I should confess that I am a stickler when it comes to swearing or inappropriate topics from my kids. This deters my kids for about 15 seconds after I warn them not to engage in such behaviour. Then the fun begins: trying to find ways to tease Mr. Urban. This particular pun was their latest effort.)
Still, my kids were unaware that I hadn’t caught on. I am sure they have taken my sidestepping of the pun as a challenge, so I expect more cunning attempts to get me to break one of my own rules.
These kids just crack me up. They are so eager and clever. And for the most part, when I ask them to, they willingly engage in the learning activity at hand.
There is always room to play and enjoy class. My kids like joking with me; I am easy enough to let them bait me, yet usually wise enough to get out of their traps.
The Unintended Lesson
The second attack came from my Grade 12 math students. My Grade 12s were a little more cautious with their pun, choosing one that was barely offensive.
But, again, I did not catch on. And how spectacular the result.
I have watched these kids grow up from Grade 7 and am absolutely fascinated at how mature and confident they have become. I can’t tell you how awed and full of pride of them I am. So, yes, I was targeted again.
The pun was simple. My kids asked me “what is that under there?” and I was supposed to reply “under where?”
I did not.
Really, it never occurred to me to even ask that. Over there were cabinets and shelves sitting without gap on the floor and a well raised table clearly with nothing under it.
I was supervising a probability quiz and wrote it myself along with them. (Probability, permutation and combination just confuse me. I can not make heads nor tails out of them. The quiz had a few sporting coin questions in it by the way.)
So I was thinking mathematically, systematically and about test question quality. I ended up pitching against the ambiguity of vague questions with my kids, particularly the one they were asking me, and they in turn kept trying rather desperately to get me to ask that magical pun-question. Dialogues of the obtuse are so amusing.
It all ended up in laughter and teacher-student bonding that would never have happened had I clued into the pun at any time.
One boy grinned that the joke turned out better than my kids had planned. A girl told me that I really got her thinking about clarity and definitions. Everyone, including me, ended the day with renewed energy and a smile.
Yeah, I was thick on Thursday. I normally take questions and comments at face value. I rarely look for ways to make this or that perverse by some lateral interpretation. I am eager to help.
And I love the way I am, and my kids. They can fool me any time they want, so long of course that doing so does not interfere with their learning activity.
I feel much closer today to these two classes of students, particularly the Grade 12s, as a result of this jocularity.
A little humour in the classroom is engaging and builds strong bonds. I am ecstatic that I subbed these kids on Thursday. A lot was won.