Teacher Tip #76: Act Like An Idiot

I’m not sure if you realise this, but as a teacher it’s okay to act like an idiot.

Some of the time.

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Do it…well, some of the time.

When, might you ask, are these times you can act like an idiot? A brilliantly insightful question, learned reader. We’re glad you asked.

There’s nothing worse than being in a room where ideas and creativity have gone to die. Places where risk taking has been trapped in the carpet and wonderings have been ripped to shreds after being sucked into a reverse cycle air conditioner. Places where teachers and students are taking life too seriously.

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Seriously, if you’re not careful you might even smile.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my schooling, my memories can be split into two categories: times of discovery and laughter, and times where you feared to grab the nearest pencil.

Teachers, we hold a huge amount of responsibility and power with regards to the memories we inject into our students’ brains. It is us who shape their perceptions of school, learning and what they remember after their time in our classrooms have come and gone.

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Which is where acting like an idiot comes in.

And by idiot, we mean letting go of your ego and embracing the silliness within us all. It’s no lie, at some point during the day I will act like an idiot with the kids in my classroom.

Whether it is bringing a story to life by acting out parts, putting on ridiculous voices, purposely misunderstanding explanations in a maths class to bring misconceptions to the surface or being a player in any game the class are undertaking.

Case in point: introducing a maths concept like fractions. Instead of simply speaking about the words denominator, numerator and vinculum (you know, that little line between the numbers in a fraction) and colouring in rectangles and circles to show fractions are parts of a whole, why not take a risk and get some fruit, gluten/diary/everything free food ready to be cut up?

Cue photos and acting out comparing fractions, discussions on equal parts versus unequal and making real world understandings of equivalent fractions (everyone goes for the half of a half of a half when cutting a cake into eighths, right?). Plus, if you’re lucky, even some eating of said free food might happen too.

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Eating food? In maths? Finally!

When we are willing to get back into the fun, wonder, and yes, silliness, that is learning, our students can’t help but get into it too. After all, if we’re serious about engaging students in real, authentic learning, we probably should be thinking about connecting it to their interests, passions and even sense of humour.

Yes, it needs to be said it isn’t possible, or needed, to bring silliness into every lesson, every day. We do need times to learn how to be present, quiet, serious and reverent. But, we also need to help our students learn how to channel and discover things that make them wonder, laugh and get excited about the world.

When in doubt (and appropriate!), bring the silliness out.

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