You Must Be Joking

funny_chemistry_teacher_quote_no_reaction_postcard-rf4872fee293747cbaf640617e0744679_vgbaq_8byvr_324A guy is sitting at home when he hears a knock at the door. He opens the door and sees a snail on the porch. He picks up the snail and throws it as far as he can. Three years later there’s a knock on the door. He opens it and sees the same snail. The snail says: ‘What the hell was that all about?’…………..Boom!

Three guys stranded on a desert island find a magic lantern containing a genie, who grants them each one wish. The first guy wishes he was off the island and back home. The second guy wishes the same. The third guy says: ‘I’m lonely. I wish my friends were back here.’

Two of the funniest jokes of all time, according to a team of researchers at Oxford University, who put them to a group of students at the London School of Economics and asked them to rate them out of ten. The jokes were from a pre-selected list of course, which makes the exercise less than useless, but nevertheless, jokes, and the ability to tell them, have been a part of our popular culture since God worried that Adam would be forever lost in the Garden because men hate to ask for directions, and most jokes are just another form of storytelling, which is at the heart of learning and teaching. Right?

How often, as a teacher, have you recognised in a young person the ability to tell a good story, to hold an audience rapt for minutes on end without script or prompt, and yet were never quite sure how the talent could be developed and nurtured? Well, fear not, because an outlet for that creativity is about to present itself, in the shape of a joint project from the BBC and the National Literacy Trust.

‘Comedy Classroom – Having A Write Laugh’ will officially launch on the 19th of April, and it isn’t just for extroverts. The project organisers are calling on teachers across the UK to get their students writing comedy – whether it be stand-up, sketch-writing or simply photo captions. And being the BBC, they have a huge collection of resources to help you on your way.

Footnote: For those teachers who think that telling jokes isn’t real learning, or for those who simply like ticking boxes, here are some of the literacy outcomes which may be enhanced by undertaking such an endeavour. Have fun, but be careful not to overdo it. Learning is a serious business, after all!

Speaking:

  • Take a role within group discussions.
  • Communicate clearly and confidently with an audience.
  • Verbally evaluate the work of themselves and others.
  • Be able to participate in discussions and presentations.
  • Demonstrate they can gain, maintain and monitor the interest of the listener(s).
  • Be able to discuss words and phrases that capture the reader’s interest and imagination.

Reading:

  • Comment on the differences between spoken and non-spoken text.
  • Consider why texts can change to be applied to specific audiences.
  • Be able to prepare comedy pieces to read aloud and to perform, showing understanding through intonation, tone, volume and action.
  • Demonstrate an ability to recognise different forms of comedy writing.
  • Be able to assess the effectiveness of their own and others’ writing and suggest improvements.

Writing:

  • Communicate meaning, adapting their style where necessary.
  • Organise their ideas in an easy to understand, coherent way.
  • Demonstrate an appropriate level of spelling, punctuation and grammar.
  • Demonstrate they can draft and edit to improve their work as well as critique others’.
  • Be able to plan, draft, edit and proofread.
  • Be able to use relevant strategies to build vocabulary, grammar and structure.

See also:

 Eleven Jokes Only Smart People Will Understand

Top Ten Teacher Jokes

Best School Jokes Ever

Teacher, School and Education Jokes

 

 

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Learning in the Long Run

Tough of the TrackSome kids hate sport; I loved it. One of my earliest memories is of running laps around my grandmother’s front lawn just to see how long I could keep it going before falling exhausted on the grass. I’ve no idea what  ‘made me’ do it, but what I do know is that it came from within me; there were no extrinsic rewards. Thus began a lifelong relationship with running, and despite some long periods apart, especially during my student days when the art of rolling and smoking one’s own cigarettes was much more in keeping with the zeitgeist than running around in trainers and shorts, we have needed each other ever since. Mark Rowlands, the runner and philosopher whose fascinating Running with the Pack I have just finished reading, describes his relationship with running like this:-

If I am thinking at all when I run, this is a sign of a run gone wrong – or, at least, of a run that has not yet gone right. The run does not yet have me in its grip. I am not yet in the heartbeat of the run; the rhythm of the run has not done its hypnotic work. On every long run that has gone right, there comes a point where thinking stops and thought begin. Sometimes these are worthless, but sometimes they are not. Running is the open space where thoughts come to play. I do not run in order to think. But when I run, thoughts will come. These thoughts are not something external to the run – an additional bonus or pay-off that accompanies the run. They are part of what it is to run, of what the run really is. When my body runs, my thoughts do too and in a way that has little to do with my devices or choosing……………

At its best, and at its purest, the purpose of running is simply to run. Running is a member of the class of human activities that carry their purpose within themselves. The purpose of running is intrinsic to it. That, I would one day realise, is important.”

Mark Rowlands, Running with the Pack

Lately, I have also been reading a number of blogs and articles where sporting analogies are used to describe improvements in learning. It is very tempting – there seem to be obvious similarities, such as personal targets, improvement plans, training schedules and so on – and the concept of ‘marginal gains‘ for example, adopted from the training methods of the highly successful British cycling team and its head coach Dave Brailsford, has gained a great deal of currency in educational circles recently. So far, so convincing, but it is around the point where comparisons are made between education and competitive professional sport that I begin to feel a bit more uncomfortable with the analogy; when exactly did learning become a ‘competition’? If we look at one of the most successful educational systems of recent years – Finland – we can perhaps see why the sporting analogy doesn’t quite fit. In his new book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Pasi Sahlberg (@pasi_sahlberg), Director General of CIMO in the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, dismisses the received wisdom that making students and schools more competitive benefits all of us in the long run, and even goes so far as to use an enigmatic quote from his fellow countryman and writer Samuli Paronen:  “Real winners do not compete.”

While some countries, such as the USA, love to talk about competition, their international education ranking, as measured by PISA, continues to tumble. Finland, on the other hand, has no lists of ‘best’ schools or teachers; the main driver of Running-with-the-Packeducational policy is cooperation. Finnish schools assign less homework, engage children more in creative play, and have no system of school inspections. Teachers are highly trained, highly respected and trusted to do what is in the best interests of all children in their care. On average, Finland accepts only 10% of applicants into its teaching universities. Applicants must not only have strong academic records, they must also possess interpersonal skills that will enable them to teach well. Next, Finland’s teaching students must complete a 5-7 year course of study, earning both undergraduate and master’s degrees. Once the newly qualified teachers are placed into schools, they will be paid well (with no student loan debt since their university education is free), while also having autonomy to adapt a loose national curriculum into one that meets local needs. They are free to choose their own teaching methods as they see fit, given ample time each day to collaborate with their colleagues, and are expected to attend continuing education classes throughout their careers in order to learn and improve their teaching methods. There are no private schools in Finland, and no standardised tests.

Come to think of it, the Finns have a pretty impressive athletic record too, especially in distance running and field events, so they certainly know how to compete, but perhaps they also recognise that sport is a distraction, not life itself. Which brings me back to the sporting analogies. I’m sure there are comparisons to be drawn between education and sport, as indeed the contribution of physical exercise to cognitive development is well documented, but perhaps the competitive aspects of professional sport are not the best place to start. It may well be that when we use the language of sport, the kind of sport we have in mind is a thing of the past, of a purer form like running itself,  from an era when sport looked less like big business and more like games, or indeed play. I’ll leave the last word with Mark Rowlands:-

“When I run, I know what is important in life – although for many years I did not know that I knew this. This is not so much knowledge newly acquired as knowledge reclaimed. When I was a boy, I also knew what was important in life. I suspect we all did, although we did not know that we knew it. But this is something I forgot when I began the great game of growing up and becoming someone. Indeed, it is something I had to forget in order to play this game at all. It is one of life’s great ironies that those least in need of understanding its meaning are those who most naturally and effortlessly understand it . On the long run, I can hear the whispers of a childhood I can never reclaim, and of a home to which I can never return. In these whispers, in the rumours and mutterings of the long run, there are moments when I understand again what it was I once knew.”

Mark Rowlands, Running with the Pack

See also:  Premier League  Psychologist Hired to  Boost Exam Results

Footnote: Finland has a population of 5.4 million. Scotland has a population of 5.25 million.

It Was a Dark And Stormy Night

“Though her beloved Roger had departed hours ago, Lila remained in her rumpled bed, daydreaming about his strong arms, soulful eyes, and how, when he first fell asleep, his snoring sounded not unlike two grizzly bears fighting over a picnic basket full of sandwiches, but as he drifted off into deeper slumber, his snoring became softer, perhaps as if the bears had decided to rock-paper-scissors for it instead.”

Thus began one of last year’s runners-up in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Run as an annual event since 1982 by the English Department at San Jose State University, the aim of the competition is for entrants to compose the worst possible opening line to a work of fiction. The competition was founded in honour of the minor Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was responsible for coining phrases such as “the pen is mightier than the sword” and “the great unwashed”, and whose novel Paul Clifford opened with the line – since immortalised in parody by Shulz’s famous cartoon beagle Snoopy – “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents -except at occasional intervals when it was checked by a violent gust of wind…………..”

The rules of the competition are very simple. Each entry must consist of a single sentence but you may submit as many entries as you wish. Since its inception, tens of thousands of submissions have been made to the competition, resulting in the publication of five collections of the best of the worst. Sadly, however, all are now out of print.

Try your hand also at Literacy Adviser’s “Dark and Stormy Night Competition” with a difference! Using Twitter, the challenge is made more difficult by restricting the opening line to 140 characters. In this case the entries have to be on the theme of education and you should send your entries to @literacyadviser using the hashtag #DSN ie simply put #DSN before your opening line. For some inspiration, here is another entry from last year’s Bulwer-Lytton:-

“The pancake batter looked almost perfect, like the morning sun shining on the cream-colored pale shoulder of a gorgeous young blonde driving 30 miles over the speed limit down a rural Nebraska highway with the rental car’s sunroof off, except it had a few lumps.”