Where Did My Humor Go?

Mike Lee Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Social Issues, Uncategorized

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I was so proud of my very first Stories From School blog. It shed light on an interesting subject, related directly to education practice, and allowed readers a glimpse into a topic that was current and relevant. Most importantly, however, I thought it was pretty darn funny. I identified this blog as an indicator of things to come and of my future online writing voice, allowing me to be the blogger who brought humor to his posts and allowed the reader an opportunity to both learn and smile. But, as I reflect on my tenor writing for AZK12, I’m surprised at how that trend has tapered, with tones becoming increasingly serious and even somewhat alarmist.

In other words, not at all funny.

Those who know and work with me would attest that humor, comedy, and laughter is what I value and rely upon the most. In daily interactions, it’s not hard to find levity in pretty much anything, especially when you are working with children. Humor is my friend, crutch, therapist, and way of escape. It can improve culture, put coworkers at ease, help develop trust, and, when self-deprecating, help to develop a sense of equality when serving in leadership roles.

As I reflect on my posts, and consider a new one, I find myself trying to be myself. I want to write like the guy that I am with my coworkers and friends.  I desperately want to conjure something funny for this post. But, try as I might, I can’t seem to find anything remotely humorous about the current big issues in education.

There’s nothing funny about good teachers with advanced degrees who tell me they can’t afford to teach because daycare is more expensive than their salary. I can’t even force a smile when considering that years of training and preparation are being flippantly discarded in states across the country, along with millions of dollars of expense for professional development and materials. There’s not a joke to be found in testing obsession, teacher shortages, short-sighted and flailing policy writing, or students being left behind in a school because a system encourages escapism rather than investing for improvement and dealing with root causes. I can’t so much as smirk when I read clear psychological research on stunted rates of development for students in poverty, yet know that they and their teachers are held accountable growth rates identical to learners who have enjoyed the benefits of middle to upper-class backgrounds, as well as the associated neurological benefits. It’s certainly not a punchline to find leading politicians whose education policy is developed in consult with individuals with no background in the field on which they advise.

And, forgive me for not laughing as politicians use wars against – and for – teachers as political springboards, but rarely deliver on anything that actually helps children or those who have dedicated their lives to their students.

So here I am. The blogger equivalent of the old man on the porch, yelling at you to get off my lawn, and complaining about your rock n’ roll. But, the frustrating thing is that the person reflected in my recent writings is not at all who I am. I look for the silver-lining, am widely considered a positive person, and try to see the best in everyone. Indeed, I don’t even disparage the people complicit in these challenges and failures. Everyone truly believes they are doing the right thing, and nobody wakes up and says, “I think today, I will ignore authentic research, pursue failing or unproven policy, and try to make the job of teaching as difficult as possible for those who are on the front lines!

However, that’s exactly what they end up doing, often because they believe that their favorite failing or ungrounded policy just hasn’t been implemented aggressively enough to really work.

All of this leaves me feeling very un-funny and, in spite of my best intentions the author of another “not funny” blog. It’s probably a real downer, actually. I really need to try and rediscover my inner Erma Bombeck, so I think I’ll go pick up some of the latest teacher evaluation proposals.

Now that’s hilarious stuff.


Mike Lee

Phoenix, Arizona

I am the Director of Outreach and Engagement for The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and certified as a Middle Childhood Generalist in 2004. In 2012, I received my doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, however, I began my work in education serving as a para-educator in a special education program while still an undergraduate. My passions in the field include assessment and reporting strategies, the evolving role of technology, teacher leadership, and effective professional development that permanently impacts instruction. I consider myself a professional teacher first, as well as a professionally evolving lifelong learner, who is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children.

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Comments 6

  1. V. V. Robles

    Did you just read my mind? You speak the truth! You are right; it is not funny. There are days I wake up and have to ask myself if this is all real. How can an educator with advance degrees not be able to live comfortably? How can research be ignored? How long can we go on like this?

  2. Sandy Merz

    You know, I was close to tears of sadness the other day when I got home. We had had a meeting about discipline in the morning and when I was thinking about it that night, I realized that my school hasn’t been fun this year. I don’t mean for me necessary (but I do a little). But mostly for the kids. I’ve been mentioning that to colleagues and no one disagrees. We have within us the skills to change that and our principal is challenging us to reconsider our values and first principals. One of mine is fun matters.

  3. Kathy Wiebke

    You captured the state of education very eloquently. This past weekend I sat in the audience of the Arizona Supt of Public Instruction’s “Listening Tour.” I was struck by several things. First, the room was full! I didn’t know that many people cared enough to come out on a Saturday. More importantly, it appeared that the support of our schools comes from a wide demographic of the young and elderly and everything in-between. The second thing that struck me was how misinformed some people are. What bothered me is these people had the microphone, shared these inaccuracies and due to the set up of the event no one spoke to correct them. As a result, inaccuracies around CCSS, testing, and curriculum continue and become exacerbated because they just had a microphone in a room full of people. Finally, education is very complex and no one is really willing to have a meaningful conversation around how we fund our education system. Until that day happens we will continue to have a system of haves and have nots. Some how education has become a political game for each side to score points. How else can you explain a system where cuts in K-12 funding abound and yet the money to TFA flows.

    This being said…your post is thoughtful. My niece graduates in one week. She has spent her entire school career, from kindergarten to high school, in an underfunded system that is full of mandates that have done little to improve her overall education. And, you are right…there is nothing funny to be had in any of this.

  4. Christine Porter Marsh

    Well said, and I agree completely. I could have written this blog myself. I, too, am positive and can find humor in just about everything teenagers do in the classroom. However, our situation is not at all funny. Unfortunately, the quote the resonates with me the most these days is this one: “At least the war on education is going well.”

  5. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    I feel the same way. Although I am usually somewhat emotional, I believe that I am a positive person. But I had a tearful conversation with my department chair just last week during which I found myself saying, “I don’t want to be that grumpy old teacher.” I feel like that grumpy old teacher. It is exhausting when our best ideas don’t fit into anyone else’s agenda, when our best efforts are regarded as fodder for growth (for the sake of showing growth) and when our successes go unvalidated and unacknowledged. The disconnect between the public conversation about schooling and the relationships and realities that happen on a daily basis, the way that public policy has shaped our relationship to what we do is completely not funny. Today I found out that our school used to have a faculty talent show. A faculty talent show!! How fun is that? Why don’t we do things like that anymore? Don’t get me started.

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