Everyone looks so much better when they smile.
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“Your Jimmy Fallon–inspired thank-you notes took a turn I wasn’t expecting,” Gretchen Schroeder said to her senior English class. “You were, well, rather . . . sarcastic,” she said.
“No, really?” came a response from the back followed by chuckles from around the room.
“Yes,” Gretchen continued. “So I decided we are not going to post these in the hallway. I’m not sure others will find them nearly as funny as we might. Let me read them to you.”
Gretchen began reading. I soon agreed that they were funny but that others in the school might not find the humor. I admired Gretchen for her commitment to sharing student writing outside of her classroom walls. It’s rare to find student writing hanging in the halls of a high school.
I also admired her for not making her students rewrite their thank-you notes so they would be “appropriate” for the hallway. Rather, Gretchen relished the way her students had worked words to create humor and the creative ways in which they were seeing the world.
She finished and said, “I imagine you can see why these will be better hanging in our classroom than in the hallway.”
The class chuckled again.
Spending time in Gretchen’s classroom, I recognized that she made this same decision over and over again. It was a decision of respect and honor of her students. They didn’t always do things in the way she expected, yet she constantly adjusted her course to get behind what they were doing as readers, writers, and learners.
She sprang a kid from in-school suspension so the girl wouldn’t fall behind with the group work they were completing in class. I watched the student thumb through text messages on her phone and go through the motions to fake the work. Yet when she slid into a seat at the table for a conference with Gretchen, the girl had serious questions and deep thoughts. “You’re in good shape,” Gretchen said. “You should be able to finish this with the extra time you have today.”
The girl offered a small smile and said, “Yeah, probably.” I was reminded that what we see on the outside is not always the truth of what’s happening on the inside. Gretchen knew better. She knew this student was capable and needed a teacher to believe in her.
As Jimmy Fallon might say, “Thank you, Mrs. Schroeder, for ignoring the snark and the apathy, and believing the best in students. You uplift them to become stronger readers and writers. May more of us honor students in the same way you do.
This week we look at place of humor in literacy workshops. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Editor, Choice Literacy
Gretchen Schroeder develops a unit on humor writing that engages and delights her high school students.
Melanie Meehan suggests some favorite classroom games for building literacy skills while laughing together as a community.
As many students face the drudgery of remote learning, sometimes what they need more than anything is a good laugh with their classmates. Cathy Mere shares some of her favorite humorous picture book read alouds for remote learning and other resources to enhance your read alouds in her “Take Five” Smore.
Jimmy Fallon has made funny art from thank-you notes for many years. You can read some of his best ones at this link.
Our courses are being redesigned and will be released this winter. At that time, all courses will be free for Literacy Leader members, and select courses will be free for Classic Classroom members. Courses are available to purchase for everyone else.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Kate Mills and Tara Barnett use the humorous Mercy Watson series to help a student transition from intervention to more independent reading.
Teaching parts of speech, punctuation, and vocabulary is viewed as dreary work for most teachers. Melanie Meehan shares how you can infuse some fun into it with a little bit of humor.
Mark Levine finds humor is the “secret sauce” in engaging middle school students and including introverts in the classroom community.
In this week’s video, Bitsy Parks helps first grader Sophia tackle the tough job of making meaning and decoding words early in the year with lots of encouragement and good humor.
In an encore video, Katie DiCesare confers with first grader Jude. He is inspired in his writing by Captain Underpants, and the conference helps Katie reflect on the power of humor in inspiring young writers.
Jennifer Allen explains how she builds in play, choice, and creativity in a study group group for veteran teachers.
Stephanie Affinito is a traveling coach, with no office to call her own. She shares tips and tools for organizing and streamlining materials when you are constantly on the go between classrooms and schools.
This New York Times article reminds us of the importance of laughter during trying times.
Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.
W. H. Auden
That’s all for this week!