Book Review – The Little Book of Laughter by Dave Keeling

Sometimes you just have to laugh. The absurdities that life throws at us every now and then can drive you to distraction, and this appears to be a quintessential part of being a teacher in current times – you need a sense of humour to look beyond the latest whimsical policy idea; the last staff meeting that just went on and on, with no clear purpose; teaching Rocket Science to that group of Year 9’s on a Friday afternoon; or the prospect of parents evening, which will mean you don’t get home until 10pm, at the earliest!  I mean, what else did we all embark on a teaching career for?

So, as teachers are clearly working in a profession with a profound sense of humour, what are the benefits of show this comical side to students and colleagues? This is where Dave Keeling comes to the rescue with his Little Book of Laughter, which firmly calls for humour and fun to be returned to educational establishments, citing the key psychological and emotional benefits of laughter to create moments which can occur to make things in the classroom better all round. So, what are the key reasons for ensuring humour is present in your pedagogical style? Here are a few, from the book:

  1. Keeps students’ attention.
  2. Emphasises key points so they stand out, allowing for better retention.
  3. Can make facts and data easier to digest.
  4. Can help regain control more effectively after a disturbance.
  5. Can relax an audience, creating a better sense of unity.
  6. Keeps relationships exciting, fresh, sparky, fun and healthy.
  7. Enriches daily interactions.
  8. Can be used as a tool to build resilience.

[pullquote]The difference between humour and dark sarcasm can be very small indeed[/pullquote]

As Pink Floyd reminded us (Another Brick in the Wall), the difference between humour and dark sarcasm can be very small indeed, and managing humour is a key essential for teachers as you don’t want to belittle fragile students who misunderstand your funniness(!), with Keeling reminding us that you should never make it personal – although it is usually easier to make jokes about yourself and laugh about yourself. Fundamentally, the key tricks to being humorous are relatively simple, and worthy of tuning up on if you ‘are not funny’: The element of surprise; Exaggeration (How big?); Silliness (All about timing, and knowing where to draw the line); Stories (the funnier the story, the better), and; Imagination – be open and let your imagination run amok!

In these times of self-importance, arrogance, paranoia, loss of reality, etc. it is possible to forget the role of humour and laughter in our schools, as expectations of accountability, testing, league tables and inspections all take centre-stage. The integral part of schooling, for pupils at least, is the human, friend social side, with humour playing a significant part in this – this also must include the adults working to support the development of children. The Little Book of Laughter is for those teachers, leaders, or managers, who regularly forget about this, providing 30 exercises to help build rapport, encourage spontaneity, getting creative juices flowing, improve learning and generally make everything better. Did you make your class smile today, thanks to your humour?

The Little Book of Laughter is written by Dave Keeling (edited by Ian Gilbert), and is published by Independent Thinking Press, with an RRP of £9.99. The book is available via Amazon, priced £9.69 (Hardcover), or £8.58 (Kindle). Please click the link below to view and/or purchase.

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