One year, while teaching my grade nine English class, I tried to convey to my students the value of every assignment in class. I used the following metaphor; that our brains were like banks. The more deposits made, the weightier our balances would be. However, instead of money, the knowledge we accumulate provides an investment that will open doors and lead to many opportunities.
The class was engaged and I felt I was getting an important message across. It was then that a student, with learning challenges, stated, “Yah? Well somebody robbed my bank!” The class and I erupted in laughter (not at the student)! We were so very impressed with this witty remark from a student who had difficulty printing a complete sentence, no less. The student was impressed with himself, as well. I quickly forgot about the attempt to relay wisdom and my own self-importance. Instead, we all became a connected group of people who could relate to his comment on some level. We’ve all been confused, had difficulty understanding something we have read, or felt defeated when learning a new task.
Although I don’t aspire to self-deprecation, the odd injection of this type of humour in our lives, I don’t feel, is harmful. On the contrary, to be able to laugh at ourselves and situations from time to time is a necessity (while, of course, being mindful of timing and audience)!
His joke also indicated something quite interesting about the brain’s ability to make connections, jest, learn, falter, and re-learn. When cognitive and academic tests may suggest otherwise, the brain can surprise, and enlighten.
At the end of the school year, I asked the student why he thought he had been successful in class. To be completely honest, I had hoped that he would claim that the mindful breathing had been key. Instead, he said, “My new meds and the wrestling mask I wear from time to time.”
Maybe, but I believe it was also his sense of humour and his hard work and he is an inspiration to me.