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!


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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




The Revolt of the Pendulum

For the past couple of days I have been distracted by the latest collection of writing from the man the New Statesman calls ‘the most accomplished essayist at work in Britain today’ – Clive James. In The Revolt of the Pendulum he demonstrates once again the ease with which he moves around his subjects, whether they are from popular culture, academic obscurity, or somewhere in between. It’s when examining the use of language though, his own and that of others, that he is at his most entertaining and illuminating, two qualities which the best teachers realised long ago often go hand-in-hand.

In ‘Insult to the Language’ James argues that the quality of English prose writing is deteriorating rapidly, especially in the ‘quality’ British journals, through a combination of bad grammar and general ignorance, especially of the origins of many everyday expressions or metaphors. ‘Usually when a metaphor slithers into imprecision, it is because the activity from which it was drawn is no longer current practice’, he writes. ‘Nobody gets the picture, because there is no longer a picture to be got.’ One example he offers is the expression ‘shot himself in the foot’, which originated from the desperate act of some soldiers in the First World War who believed that the self-inflicted wounds would exempt them from further action. Almost a hundred years later, the original association is almost lost, so that ‘shot himself in the foot’ has come to suggest clumsiness rather than cowardice.

In another of the essays, ‘John Bayley’s Daily Bread’, the author talks about ‘those desperate commentators, omnipresent now in our multiple media outlets, who must always advance an outlandish opinion because they don’t write well enough to make a reasonable opinion interesting.’ Ever mindful of avoiding the same mistake himself, he steps back from the precipice of outlandish opinion to offer the reasonable opinion, a practice that anyone learning or teaching the art of discursive writing would do well to observe:

‘The language has always changed, so to protest looks reactionary. If there were no reactionaries, however, deterioration would become galloping decay. In reality decay does not gallop, but we all know what a horse is even if we have not ridden one, so everyone realises, so far, that ‘galloping’ is being used metaphorically. When all the horses have gone, ‘galloping’ will just mean ‘rapid’…….The typical prose of the present has no past. Whether it has a future remains to be seen.’

This is Me Since Yesterday

There are some expressions which stay with you from childhood, my favourite being the one above which I used to hear from friends of my mother or my granny when they met on the street. It always puzzled me but I suppose it was just an expression of the lack of progress made since they had last met. It reminds me too though of the absurdity of language (remember Billy Connolly’s “I’ll take my hand off your jaw”?) and the precision with which the Scots language is able to conjure up an image. Consider the grammatical contortions involved in the following statement to a news reporter during the Glasgow East by-election this week from a local woman caught in front of a microphone. Expressing amazement at the sheer volume of journalists and canvassers on the street she told the interviewer “my hoose hisnae haltit aw week at the front door.” Tells you everything you need to know but translate it directly into English and make sense of it!

Neither Here Nor There

One of my good friends and colleagues is moving on to pastures new this week and has invited a few of us to dinner, with the stipulation that each of us has to do a “turn” in the Scottish tradition which used to have me hiding behind the furniture as a child at Hogmanay parties. I can’t sing, I can’t dance and I can barely play a CD. However, I can read and I can appreciate a good sense of humour so after a bit of research I’m going to attempt a monologue in the style of Chic Murray, one of Scotland’s best ever comedians. One of Billy Connolly’s greatest influences, Chic was famous for his deadpan delivery and the surreal or absurdist nature of his stories. Like Groucho Marx, much of Chic’s humour hinged on the ambiguities of the English language and his delight in playing with words. “My girlfriend’s a redhead – no hair, just a redhead” could just as easily have come from the little grouch as the “Tall Droll”, Murray’s famous stage name. I suppose in the scheme of things, it’s neither here nor there whether I pull off the performance or not. But as Chic would say, if something’s neither here nor there, where the hell is it? Fortunately there is still video footage of the great man.