|Inspired by Mr. Griffin,
I yearbooked myself.
Frightening stuff. technology
Day 1: Not a big laughing day. I was working on almost no sleep. I was a test monitor at school for students taking make-up tests. I was late getting home and made problems for my wife. My daughter was cranky and sad. I spilled some Jello on the floor. Actually, a lot of Jello on the floor. And then I went on Facebook and saw it was one of my favorite couple’s anniversary. So I typed in a message. This message actually: “You guys still had the best wedding I was ever late for. Congratulations. Love you.” I finished typing and hit return. But nothing happened. I hit return again and nothing happened. Facebook was bugging out. I pounded the return key with frustration. Nothing. So I reloaded my Facebook wall. There was my friends wedding anniversary picture, only now it had 42 comments where as few seconds before it had only had 6 comments. I looked at my running list of fourty-two “You guys still had the best wedding I was ever late for. Congratulations. Love you,” and laughed about one time for each of the 42 comments.
Day 2: My daughter Luca was working in her Kanji exercise book and she had a question about what she was supposed to write. Without looking up, her mouth twisted into a half-frown off of concentration, she said, “Mama, what am I supposed to do here?” And I said, “Did you call me ‘Mama’?” And we both exploded in laughter.
Day 5: I had a pretty informal lesson observation today. I video taped one of my classes and sent it off to John Fanselow, and then we spent an hour going through the lesson. He asked me questions (“Why are you having all the students do the dictation exercise at the same time?” “Why do you explain all the steps of the exercise at one time?” “Why don’t you give your sample sentences a title?”). One hour of question after question. Which did lead to some moments of laughter. But it was more of a desperate laughter of exhaustion. And it also led to this insight: a good observation starts with a sense of curiosity and ends with the sense of curiosity spreading from the observer to the observee. At the end of the observation, John mentioned an article I had written about a dictogloss variation I had developed with my students. He said, “You know, you have this paragraph at the end of page 22 and I have to say, I have no idea what you are talking about. Why don’t you take that paragraph and rewrite it without any jargon. And while you’re at it, see if any of your friends will give it a try as well.” So I rewrote the paragraph. It took a long time and gave me a headache. I also posted the paragraph as a Google Doc and invited people on Twitter to give it a re-write as well. Anne Hendler (@Annehendler) sent out the following Tweet:
“my original translation had the word “stuff” in it multiple times #imakenosenseeither”
Which I think was the point John was trying to make. But the idea of taking an academic article and replacing all jargon with the word “stuff” made me laugh. A lot.
Day 6: I was writing an article on various approaches in language teaching and realized that while I had watched people use Cuisenaire rods to teach, I had never actually tried to use them in learning a language myself. So I fired up Youtube and found a series of seven videos which use Cuisenaire rods to teach the Native American language Lakoto. Mamico and I watched all seven videos over and over. We were particularly confused by the words “ba-nis” and “jim” which seemed to be very important to the conversation. We had figured out that “na” was a conjunction. That “sapa” meant ‘both.’ We understood the basic structure of the sentences. But “ba-nis” and “jim” remained a mystery. Until Mamico said, “It’s their names.” Oh, “Bernice and Jim.” We watched the videos a few more times and every time I heard “ba-nis” and “jim” I would laugh. And then have to rewind the video because I had laughed right over the lesson.
(TESOLgeek memo 3: I ended up using Cuisenaire rods to help one of my students use adverbial phrases and noun clauses in his speech. The fact that I could easily pick up an entire clause and physically move it around in the sentence proved to be very helpful for understanding. Sandy Millin also has a must read blog post on Cuisenaire rod use.)
Assorted other laughs:
So that’s it. Six days of things that made me laugh. So did it work? Did I feel less depressed about a semester full of missed teaching and learning opportunities for my students? Not really. But when I wasn’t busy feeling regretful, I was definitely more cheerful and ready to laugh. Perhaps there is something to the idea that noticing laughter-events leads to more laughter. And even if it doesn’t, writing up this laughing journal gave me a chance to laugh at my week again. So at the very least, a laughing journal certainly leads to recycling of laughter-events and even a certain kind of joyful consolidation.