Sunday, December 24, 2017

Fun does not mean unprofessional

I follow some great educators on Twitter, one of the great things about the platform is being able to find people that share interests that I don't know personally. I like to follow inspirational teachers that make me want to do better, that can expand my point of view and remind me that how varied and diverse our national education system is. I get a lot of great ideas from physics teachers and get to chuckle in commiseration with hashtags like #teacherlife and #teacherproblems.

Two days ago a math teacher and author from New York Jose Vilson posted a video of himself dancing in class with a great Christmas sweater. I liked it, not thinking much of it and continued to scroll. Unsurprisingly, Jose's video was retweeted by other people I follow so I got to smile again every time it came up:
I was surprised however, when I started noticing that not only were people retweeting the video but also including remarks of defense and support. I had to follow a few threads to figure out why Jose even needed to be defended. (Hint: he shouldn't have to be) There had been comments about Jose's dance being "unprofessional" but they weren't so nice about it, in fact they were downright racist about it.
On one hand, 2017 can't shock me much more but on the other, he was just dancing! He is a great teacher and activist, published author, etc. but that doesn't mean he's not human. Teachers are human. We are not robots, we are people. The whole thing got me thinking of all the times I've been "unprofessional" in front of my students. Its quite a list:

- Teach students to do the "Superman" yoga pose and worn two back packs at a time while teaching center of mass and stability.
- Literally kicked off my heels to run across my classroom and try to race the stadium wave my students make across the classroom while teaching, duh, waves.
- Spun around like a ballerina/ figure skater to remind them about conservation of angular momentum.
- Spun and leaped in a circle to reinforce the difference between rotation and revolution.
- Stood on lab benches to drop/ throw/ launch a variety of projectiles.
- Channel my inner drill sergeant and lead the class in force exercises; I say "A Force is a what?" and they respond "A push!" I say "And a what?" and they shout back "A pull!"

There are probably more that I've forgotten. As many other teachers have I also frequently share jokes and puns about my curriculum. Students' suspicions are correct, teachers do actually plan some of those jokes. I have a construction hat I've written the formula for work on and I wear it every year. This year I made a giant piece of buttered toast just to illustrate a tough textbook problem

Teachers often use humor to teach and engage their students. We've been known to use comic strips and Dan Burns even dresses up to look like the physics teacher in FoxTrot on occasion.
All of that is acceptable, but dancing is not? You've undoubtedly heard the phrase "Happy Dance," when someone does a little dance for about 10 seconds when they are unexpectedly happy. You may see your students do a happy dance when they got a grade higher than they expected. I've seen full grown adults do a happy dance in a store when they find their favorite wine on sale. The point of the happy dance is spontaneous joy, despite surroundings, in order to celebrate something unexpected or surprising. How is that accepted across our culture but a teacher in a classroom of happy students can't dance? Being fun does not mean you are unprofessional. I say teachers continue the dancing, winging, joking, etc. This job is hard enough without being a sour puss.


Jose Vilson said...

That's facts. You're right about the idea of professionalism, *and* too many folks confuse professionalism with seriousness and / or academic and / or human. That latter is really what I prefer to reach whenever I can, even as I have professional duties. Bless us.

Bryn said...

Oooh I've been using call-backs too! (My Assistant Principal likes them). Do you have others? Here's a couple I made up:
Me: What does Newton say
Class: F = m a

Me: I've lost an electron
Class: Are you positive

Me: What is the unit of power
Class: Waaaaattttt

Yes, this job is too tough to take ourselves to seriously.