Thursday, March 03, 2005

Chamber of Laughter

Does laughter fill the hallowed halls of your institution? It certainly doesn’t at mine. In fact, I suspect the evolutionary process amongst academics has all but eliminated the giggle gene. Here, faculty governance bodies soberly debate the minutia of, well, everything that doesn’t really matter. One department on our campus is so divided that some faculty members haven’t talked to others for thirty years. Literally haven’t spoken. That’s just pathologically humorless.

But I guess it’s not just academics who are too serious. Today ABC radio announced the increasing popularity of laughter clubs. Laughter clubs? For real? For real! In fact, if you Google the World Laughter Tour, you’ll see them in most states and several countries. In fact, the WLT even has a certification process for leaders (only $319—also available by e-learning). I guess I shouldn’t be startled. Given the studies showing laughter’s role in reducing stress and extending health benefits, it’s not surprising that guffawing goes the capitalist way of Jenny Craig, yoga, Pilates, and oxygen. Next stop—infomercials.

Needing a certified laughter leader to help us laugh—how have we ended up in such a predicament? My mom and dad always jollied me out of my sulks. They would taunt, “You’re going to crack!” until I caved in, grinning. While their laugh tactics were strictly amateur, I’m tempted to try something equally unschooled on my campus. What would happen if I sent flowers from the Capulets to the Montagues? What if I staged a TP shortage when the Cs were in the bathroom with the Ms? Or what if I wore my PJs to a meeting of higher admins?

Are faculty and students on your campus cloaked with the same somber fatigue that they are on mine? Learning is FUN, dang it. Where’s the noise, the whimsy, the laughter in our classrooms?

What do you do to nourish the imp in your colleagues and your students?

Gigglepuss Kjesrud


At 7:07 PM, Blogger spiral said...

Wow, I've been enjoying the pouncy, bouncy playfulness of the posts this week. To add some spice to my classroom life, I've cultivated trademarks: fire engine red hair and crazy socks.

I also have a penchant for icebreakers and toys: I make students pass random objects around in a circle while saying,
"This is a (insert object name)."
"A what?"
"A (whatever object is)."
"A what?"
"A (whatever)."
"A what?"
"A (whatever)."
"Oh, a (whatever)."
Then everyone passes the objects, making sure to only have one object in hand at a time.

Throughout the passing, everyone must be in sync, saying "A what?" and looking in a certain direction at the same time. People always end up in stitches: the passing game requires lots of coordination--fast, so students usually end up dropping objects, missing words, etc.

Another fun activity I do involves teaching proposals via pets. I bring in whatever small pet I'm keeping around (sometimes hamsters, sometimes fish) and have students convince me of whether or not to keep the pet. In other classes, I have students write from the perspective of the pet, who is trying to convince me of why s/he should be set free or not.

I also incorporate crayons, Legos, Play-doh, Superbowl commercials, and now tabloids into class. If I could just figure out a way to use bubbles . . .

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Sherri said...

Laughter Chamber. I like it. I get an immediate image of the cone of silence, only it's over more than one person, all laughing. Hmmmm.

I think that people too often think that fun is "just fun," extra. And yet it contributes to physical and emotional well-being, just to name two biggies. And it's The Way We Learn as children (now I've got an image of 100 two-year-olds in a lecture hall).

But I'm also thinking about Roberta's lively personality: she IS fun. I, too, love a good loud laugh. Laughter is in my personality, too. What about those around us who don't define themselves in this way? Fun intimidates some while it excites others, right? The Laughter Chamber has a door, too. It's open, we say, but...?

Still, I just love hearing Roberta here. I delight in her writing and ideas, her candor. Maybe it's just important for me to remember that candor comes in lots of forms and can be delightful.


At 7:06 AM, Blogger Tamara Miles said...

I'm having blog withdrawal symptoms --- glad to be back. I wanted to add to this conversation about laughter by noting that I like teaching with political cartoons.

Check out

(and be sure to see the cartoon about minors and lethal injection --- it's like somebody once wrote about John Callahan's work: "You think, 'that's not funny,' and then you laugh like hell.")

By the way, I took the challenge posted on WCenter to draw a picture of my internal editor. The first thing I noticed about her is that she is so deadly serious. She has a Bible in one hand and an English grammar book in the other, and she says only things like "No!" or "Do more!" or "Why can't you?" or "You are a scatter-brain." Happily, when I drew her, I laughed at her.

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Sherri said...

Hey, Roberta, others, you still here? I wanted to come back and say that, since I read Roberta's comments about the Chamber of Laughter, I've been more aware of what my presence does in any given hallway, as I'm running to the printer from my office or heading down to the writing center or going to a meeting. And I've been singing more, even skipping! That kind of thing. I'm spicing up the hallways over here, Roberta. Thanks for reminding me to play.

Sherri, across town at Whatcom CC

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Roberta Kjesrud said...

I have a picture of skippy, zippy, Sherri! What with it being the end of term and my life being stressed, I'm not nearly as inclined to play. But that's when I most need to, eh?

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It’s 11:00 in the morning and your energy is waning. Minutes seem to tick by like hours and your mind feels foggy. You’ve still got six more hours to look alert and act productive and get over anxiety medicine, so how do you cope with the afternoon blahs? Follow these six tips!

1. If you have a job that involves sitting at a desk all day or staring at a computer screen, take five minutes to stand up or lean back, close your eyes and stretch, especially in your shoulder and leg areas. Being seated all the time can make your whole body feel stiff and sleepy. A good stretch session helps limber up your body and gets the blood flowing again.

2. Avoid the tempting lure of caffeine or sugar-laden foods such as coffee, tea or chocolate. Caffeine may perk up your energy levels temporarily, but it also has a bad habit of leaving you sluggish after the effect has worn off. Instead, choose whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables to give your body the fuel it really wants! Eating healthier will boost your mood, elevate your alertness, change anxiety medicine and make you feel better all day long.

3. Along with healthier foods, take a quick 10-15 minute walk during your lunch break. Just a few minutes will give you a burst of energy that refreshes you and makes you feel more alert – while burning off your lunch calories in the process!

4. Sometimes, afternoon slumps can be your body’s way of telling you that it needs something. You may be feeling tired if your blood sugar is low (which happens especially after the effect of those caffeine and high sugar foods has worn off!). Packing a low calorie snack like graham crackers, granola, fruit or vegetable slices can give your body a boost and keep you from feeling hungry in the late afternoon and caving in to the urge to devour the entire contents of the vending machine after work!

5. Drowsiness is often a sign that you’re not getting enough water. Drinking more water throughout the day not only helps keep you awake, but also keeps you from feeling those hunger pangs that inevitably creep up in mid-morning. Taking a large sports bottle that you can drink from throughout the day is a great way to get your recommended eight glasses a day as well!

6. If afternoon fatigue is a recurring problem, it may be a side effect of medications you are taking. Allergy pills are well known culprits, as are some blood pressure and anxiety/depression medicines. Don’t try to circumvent these effects with caffeine, otherwise you’ll overload your body with stimulants while it’s already trying to deal with drowsiness, and you’ll feel mentally and physically exhausted. Instead, try a short 15-20 minute catnap. You’ll be surprised how refresh you’ll feel when you wake up! (Don’t try this at work though – I know it’s tempting!)

If you follow these tips on a regular basis, you’ll not only make it through the afternoon blahs, but you’ll also feel better physically and mentally, sleep better at night, and wake up rejuvenated and re-energized the next morning. Make it a GREAT day! anxiety medicine

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