The Art of Teaching with Humor

Crafting Laughter

by Teri Evans-Palmer (Author)
©2021 Textbook XVI, 162 Pages


"Why a book on humor for teachers?" After dodgy decades of teaching in high schools infamous for gang entanglements, students behaving badly and apathetic administrators, followed by time in a middle school art room dubbed the "snake pit," Teri Evans-Palmer cheerfully accepted an adjunct position at a nearby university and enrolled in a doctoral program. Her heart goes out to teachers of all ages who sit in her humor sessions sharing stories that would make your heart pound. Inevitably, a teacher would ask, "Where can I get your book?"
The pages of this book come from times with Dr. Evans-Palmer's students when something funny made learning happen. There were plenty of days when the author felt like running into the woods screaming, but the best days were filled with tinkling moments enrobed in rollicking laughter, days she would happily relive again. Humor has both saved and served her as a teaching resource, a way to live connected to students, and a soft place to land when the burden of teaching knocks her over with the weight of it.
The Art of Teaching with Humor is for teachers everywhere who share the need to laugh in order to thrive and survive. It is filled with amusing scenarios and specific humor tools any teacher can use to boost student creativity, attention, engagement, and performance. It is also a guide for teacher educators, administrators, and professional development staff to consider, as it explains how synthesizing joyful humor with instructional content and delivery safeguards teachers’ emotional wellbeing and classroom performance.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Why Did I Write This Book? My Testimony, My Study
  • Teaching Is Challenging, Humor Is Strengthening
  • Who Should Read This Book?
  • Chapter One Humor’s Place in Art Education
  • Humor and Laughter Are Essential to Teaching and Learning Art
  • Humor Makes Teaching Fun
  • Humor Triggers Innovative Thinking
  • Humor Distances Us From Stressors
  • Humor Builds Student Rapport
  • What Exactly Is Humor, a Sense of Humor and Laughter?
  • Teacher Sense of Humor
  • Effective Forms of Teacher Humor
  • Effective Humor for the Right Student
  • How to Have a Sense of Humor Even if You Don’t Think You Are Funny
  • Achievable Teacher Behavior Sequence
  • When Good Humor Goes Bad: Appropriate and Inappropriate Teacher Humor
  • Chapter Two What Good Humor Can Do for Art Teachers
  • Why Good Humor Will Save Your Career
  • Humor to Manage Classroom Procedures
  • Five to Thrive Classroom-Based Behavior Strategies
  • Rules to Inaugurate Behavior Expectations
  • Consequences to Equitably Deter Misbehavior
  • Routines to Guide Student Activities
  • Devices to Redirect Misbehavior
  • Incongruous Teacher Responses to Stop Student Distractions
  • Thwart Annoying Behavior with Inanimate Objects
  • More Annoying Behavior
  • Engagement Strategies to Foster Student Attention and Active Learning
  • Humor to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
  • Raising Resilience: When Bad Things Happen to Good Teachers
  • Humor Helps with External, Adverse Impingements
  • Threats and Attacks on Teachers
  • Humor Minimizes Our Perception of Threats and Attacks
  • Humor Maximizes Internal Emotional Health
  • Humor to Build Confidence in Your Teaching (Self-Efficacy)
  • Chapter Three Humor Connects Teachers with Students
  • Our Intuition
  • Our Emotional Intelligence
  • Self-Awareness and Self-Monitoring
  • Developing Emotional Intelligence Capabilities
  • Our Physicality
  • Types of Teacher Humor
  • Humor-Enhancing Dialogue
  • Student Response to Your Humor
  • Humor’s Positive Effect on Student Emotions
  • Engagement and Interest
  • Learning
  • Memory and Recall
  • Humor Reaches Out to Students with Diverse Identities and Challenges
  • Culture
  • Gender
  • Autism
  • Perfectionism
  • Anger
  • Humor Engages Students with Art
  • The Big Picture about Teaching with Humor
  • Chapter Four Humor Invites Play, Divergent Thinking and Creativity
  • Play
  • It All Adds Up: Interconnectedness of Play, Humor and Creativity
  • Go Bananas! An Example of Play, Humor and Creativity
  • Useless New Inventions: A Playful Activity for Emerging Artists
  • Playful Inventing and Divergent Thinking
  • Brain Thunder
  • Linking Thinking
  • A Method for Teaching Successful Inventing
  • Teaching Divergent Thinkers
  • PTDS: A Factor Hindering Successful Inventing
  • Analog Abstract Drawings: Nonthreatening First Drawing Challenge
  • The Dead Fly Story
  • Thumbnail Sketches of Four Themes
  • Final Drawing of One Selected Sketch
  • Class Critique of Final Drawings
  • Teacher Feedback
  • What Humor, Play, Inventiveness, and Divergent Thinking Means for Teachers
  • Tale of Two Teachers
  • Artists Play to Create
  • The Call for Creativity from the Future
  • Conclusion: Our Best Bet for Teaching Tomorrow: Encouragement and Empathy for Educators
  • To Art Teachers
  • To Teacher Educators
  • To Educational Policy Makers
  • Bibliography

←xiv | xv→


What I remember most about the days spent with my students in the art classroom are the times when something funny made things happen. A sense of humor has both saved me and served me as a teaching resource, a way to live connected to others, and as a source of strength and triumph. This book is a guide to teachers everywhere (with specifics for visual art teachers). My hope is it will be a safety net, a lifesaver, an instructional resource or simply a soft place to land when the burden of teaching knocks you over with the weight of it.←xv | xvi→

←xvi | 1→


Why Did I Write This Book? My Testimony, My Study

You might be asking yourself, “Why a book on humor for art teachers?” My response to you is directly related to my tortuous struggle teaching art in public schools that led to a serious dependency on humor. There were plenty of days when I felt like running into the woods screaming. My best days, however, were tinkling moments enrobed in rollicking laughter, days I would happily relive again and again. This book is for teachers who may share my need to laugh in the classroom in order to thrive and survive teaching as a career.

Just before I entered academia in higher education, I taught art for 7 years in a high school infamous for gang entanglements, truancy, student disengagement, and apathetic administrators. I had to do something to shield myself from spiralling disillusionment. (I was certainly not willing to join the herd of teachers running out the back door to seek employment elsewhere). So, I began to play with quirky teaching approaches to gain my equilibrium and motivate reluctant students at the same time. I tried warming up “cold” pencils, brought out the “I Can” (a soda can covered with magazine photos of eyes), came down with a British accent, leapt onto desks, sported a magic wand, and pulled a number of metaphors out of the air to clarify concepts. In doing so, I felt a strange sense of control, felt lighter, happier, more connected to my students.←1 | 2→

Looking back, I have known that humor has had a resounding effect on my life as a teacher, kicking in as a default mechanism to override pressures outside of my control in the workplace. As a veteran K-12 art teacher in rural, urban and overseas military schools, I grasped at humor regularly as a lifesaver when I was drowning in a sea of stress. Stressors common to all art teachers flood into classrooms from a considerable number of sources: classrooms teeming with students operating with a broad spectrum of skills, reduced class time, minimized respect for the teaching profession, and the shrinking art curriculum attributed to accountability testing. I will be the first to tell teachers that teaching with humor as a Pollyanna, sunny-sky, everything’s-okay practice is not what I propose in this book. Failure happens. Some classes are just hard to teach. Some teaching days are super sad. At a low point in my life, I left a very trying teaching position midpoint in the school year. No amount of good humor could accomplish what a good hard look at my teaching situation did. (Read about it Chapter Two).

My appeal to teachers in this book is to allow humor to shift their perspective. Much of what I learned about humor came to me at the height of art educator anxiety, while serving 7 years in the aforementioned high school, (you know, the one infamous for gang fights). After I had accumulated a toolbox full of humor devices to live by, a soft-eyed freshman looked up from his work and said solemnly, “You know, Mrs. Evans-Palmer, you really ought to get a Ph.D.” His counsel remained lodged in my heart for the next 2 years. After a dodgy few months in a middle school art room dubbed the “snake pit” by the principal, I cheerfully accepted an adjunct position at a nearby university and enrolled in a doctoral program.

Earning a doctoral degree is like enjoying dessert after dutifully eating your vegetables. It is a privilege, a path to pondering all things yet to be pondered. There, I reflected on a list of issues that mattered the most to me as a teacher. At the top of the list was humor’s power to bail me out of tough situations with students. I remembered how humor helped restore me to “whole health” teaching when teaching is robust, clicking into place in a way that makes students eager to learn. I recalled how weightless laughter made me feel as I trudged through tiresome tasks that felt like pushing rocks uphill. I remembered colleagues who modeled humor so well that their students would rush to class. They enjoyed a wonderful connection with their students, who I might add, were high-achievers. These teachers shared personality traits that perpetuated their success no matter how difficult their jobs. My observations, coupled with my experiences linking humor to emotional health, propelled me to investigate the relationship of humor to good teaching. I wanted to know, “What behaviors of teachers with high humor orientation encouraged positive perceptions of their teaching performance?” I also wanted to know, “Which of these traits were interrelated?”←2 | 3→


XVI, 162
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (August)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XVI, 162 pp., 3 b/w ill., 9 color ill., 4 tables.

Biographical notes

Teri Evans-Palmer (Author)

Teri Evans-Palmer, Associate Professor at Texas State University, enjoys preparing new visual art teachers for success in the field. Her career as a K-12 art educator, school district visual arts coordinator, director of public information, study abroad program director, researcher, and artist have placed her in schools and museums across Texas, Pennsylvania, Germany, Italy, and Africa. Her published research investigates the internal capacities of teachers, specifically the essential vitality of humor as a response to the inherent challenges in public school art education (teacher resilience, disposition, emotional well-being, instructional self-efficacy, student engagement, and visual journaling). Teri leads professional development and continuing education for visual arts and museum educators. She received her B.S. in Art Education from Kutztown University, her M.S. in Art from Texas A & M University, and her Ph.D. from University of the Incarnate Word.


Title: The Art of Teaching with Humor
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