Welcome to Laughing Linguist!
In 2007, I moved from the U.S. to Austria to become a teaching assistant for English as a Second Language. The first rule I was told at our orientation training was:
~ Never, ever laugh at your students. ~
Four-and-a-half years later, I have broken that Golden Rule perhaps hundreds of time. (What they should have told me was, ‘Don’t come to school with wet hair.’ Apparently, anyone outside of an American college campus thinks that’s gross.) Yet I think I might be a better teacher for all my outbursts. No, I am not an evil teacher who sets out to ridicule her students (like the kind everyone remembers having at some point in school). My frequent laughter in the classroom comes not from making fun of students, but from the pure joy of observing how much language can change situations. One wrong word, even syllable, can give a situation a completely different meaning, and it’s imagining these alternate realities that I find so amusing.
For me, this is what makes learning a language fun, something to look forward to every day or week. So I am all for more laughter — and yes, more mistakes! — in the classroom, because that means that students are taking more risks and realizing the power of their words.
Wow, that was a lot cheesier than I had intended…