Are Teachers Like Stand Up Comedians?

This is not a post about teachers being funny and capturing students’ attention through jokes, humor. Rather, it is about the premise that a teacher can learn to teach in a class.

I have changed so much over my 30 year teaching career. My beliefs have been turned upside down since my beginnings in Teachers’ College, looking up at my professors and expecting to be filled with their mana from academic heaven.

I recently returned to Canada for a visit and on the plane watched an episode of Viceland about the question – “Can you teach someone to be a stand-up comedian?” I found it fascinating and found myself flipping it to answer the question – “Can you teach someone to be a teacher?”. Just like in the video (I’d post but it has now been taken down), the conclusion is only slightly. They do have to have the “right stuff” to begin with.

There is a lot you can teach about teaching but you can’t teach someone how to do it. They have to do it, they have to experience it, learn from being immersed in the act. Yes, you can tweak a lot but you can’t just fill a teacher with advice, knowledge, practice class lessons before peers and then say – “Voila, here I have a teacher!”.

As a professor, I always felt so neutered, so disabled trying to teach teachers about teaching. And I wasn’t teaching practical courses but rather core courses (history of education, legal and professional basis of education, etc …). I always felt like I was going through the motions and I believe I was right. The students couldn’t wait to get to their practicums and really learn. They were depressed to go through the ropes of the classroom and trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole.

It’s a crock – all the certification, sit in class and learn to teach B.S. It really is. It’s also highway robbery when you think of the amount of money involved.  You can’t teach someone how to teach. You can mentor them (as a good trainer would), after a lot of experience time on their part. But you can’t learn to be a teacher. Yet we do, we take students money and march them through the motions …. Yuck.

I’ve always thought we needed a medical model for teacher education. Pre-service teachers attend classes at a school. They work in the morning and then have classes in the afternoon. Residency. Most of their time is spent teaching, not with their nose in a textbook, memorizing and forgetting.

Sure teachers need to learn about the theory, the laws and standards of being a teacher – but they should be learning to be a teacher every day by doing stand – up. You can’t teach someone to be funny nor can you teach them to be a teacher. It has to be done …..

In the coming days, I’ll share more about my changed beliefs including the myths we still flag and parade. The big one being – students can learn a language in a classroom alone …… Stay tuned.

But teachers can be good at stand up comedy! Here’s my fav. Gerry Dee and his funny stuff about teaching.

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