This guest blog post is by Gary Doi, retired school superintendent and founder/editor of A Hopeful Sign, a blog intended to "spread hope by sharing real-life stories of living-learning-leading."
Whoever first said that laughter does for emotional health what exercise does for the body knew what he or she was talking about. Laughter can add moments of brightness to even the darkest days. It works for both children and adults, and can put a smile on someone’s face—sometimes, when they most need it.
Laughter is also a powerful antidote as it builds resilience and creates hopefulness. Or, think of it this way: A hearty laugh (or a gentle chuckle) is good for the soul.
As a school superintendent for 18 years, I worked with a lot of schools and students and so I “own” a cupboard full of laughter-inspired material. Some of the stories I treasure most are the lighthearted moments and situations with the children. It is as if I am channeling Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby when they proclaimed—“Kids say the darndest things!”
Here are a few of my schoolhouse anecdotes, which I hope will tickle your funny bone and make you laugh:
One day I was in the hallway observing a class of students lining up for an assembly. I overheard the following curious conversation between two 6th grade students:
“Do you know who that is?” said one of the boys looking in my direction.
“That’s the superintendent,” replied his friend.
“Right. Do you know he can fire a school principal!” he said dramatically.
“Really?” said the other. “Imagine what he could do to students.”
One day, a kindergarten student was sent to the principal’s office for acting up in class. The principal talked for several minutes with the young lad about his inappropriate behavior.
The child gazed about as the principal lectured about the importance of getting along with others. When the principal had finished his “talk”, the child smiled and casually said, “Must be nice to be principal.”
The principal, who looked a little like the fictional character Friar Tuck (especially with the hair fringe) replied, “Well if you work hard, you may grow up to be a principal one day.”
“Really?” answered the 5-year-old. “Would I have to get a haircut like yours?”
Spike, a pet lizard, was adored by the children at the school where he was kept. One day the children noticed that Spike’s skin color had changed from brown to dark black. Then Spike stopped breathing and lay collapsed in his glass container. It seemed that Spike had given up the ghost, and the news hit the children hard, leaving many in tears.
During recess, when most of the children were outside, the teacher reached in the cage to dispose of their beloved Spike. When she did, though, and much to her surprise—indeed, shock—Spike raised his head and looked about, perhaps wondering what all the fuss was about.
Now it was the teacher’s turn to change skin color, stop breathing, and almost collapse.
The news of Spike’s resurrection (it was Easter time, after all), spread quickly as a young boy ran around the playground like the town crier shouting, “It’s a miracle! It’s a miracle! Spike lives!”
That’s toughness for you. When the chips are down and it appears that you are on your last legs, you persevere and live to fight another day. That should give anyone a small measure of hope and optimism—it certainly did for the children at that school.
Mrs. C was the school principal of a small, rural elementary school in Canada, and Charlie (not his real name), was a 4th grade student and a chronic visitor to the principal’s office. For Charlie, the principal's office was a comfortable place to be.
Charlie struggled as a student, academically and socially. He had difficulty getting along with the other children and often used inappropriate language. He was constantly saying the F word (the actual F word, not the abbreviated form).
Mrs. C was a dedicated, caring, and compassionate principal who tried a variety of strategies to stop Charlie from using the bad word. She talked with him about how upsetting it was for the other students and staff, discussed the importance of having school rules about bad behavior and bad language, tried to make connections with Charlie’s outside interests (which were quite limited), and even had a special meeting with Charlie’s mother. That’s when Mrs. C realized the scope of the problem. During the meeting, Charlie’s mother frequently used the F word to describe her views of the school and her son.
One day, as the end of the school year was nearing, Mrs. C publicly announced her retirement with a notice in the school newsletter. Shortly thereafter, as Charlie was leaving the principal’s office, he stopped at the door and asked Mrs. C a question.
“Is it true you are leaving, Mrs. C?” said Charlie.
“That’s right, Charlie,” she said. “I’ve worked a lot of years and I am going to retire in the next month.”
Charlie didn’t say anything for a moment. Then he lowered his head a little and in a quiet voice said, “I’ll miss you Mrs. C. You’re the best F___ principal I’ve ever had.”
Mrs. C smiled broadly and thanked him, for Charlie—despite his use of language—was a good person at heart.
Gary Doi, founder and editor of ahopefulsign.com, is a recently retired school superintendent, having served 18 years in three British Columbia school districts. Previous to that, Doi was a teacher, consultant, school administrator, and university lecturer. He created the magazine blog “A Hopeful Sign,” to foster the spread of hopefulness by encouraging people to live-learn-lead by thinking and acting in hopeful ways, and by supporting and encouraging others, one person, one group at a time. In May, A Hopeful Sign ran a guest blog post by SchoolFamily.com editor Carol Brooks Ball called "Academic Success For Children is Linked to Hope." Follow A Hopeful Sign on Twitter and Facebook.