As I sat in on the advanced level English class, the instructor was teaching about laughter. Tonight would be her last day of classes, and she informed the students that she wanted to end on a happy note. Laughter indeed makes life better. Laughter helps us feel happy, it helps us be healthier. Laughter helps us relax when we are stressed. There is no doubt that laughter has many benefits. As we go through changes, we need to rely on laughter and joy.
In fact, this summer has brought several changes to the Center for New Americans. We said goodbye to three wonderful instructors. We changed class schedules. We moved to a different office space and welcomed a new program into the building. These changes have been an opportunity to evaluate and enjoy life, to laugh and to grow. And so we have found that the classroom is a place to laugh here at the Center for New Americans. We laugh because we are happy. We are nervous. We are strong. We are learning. We share the joys and trials of learning a new language together. Laughter brings us together and unites us as a class, as a family.
Recently I was able to talk with another instructor. Here is one of his best laughter memories from class:
One time, when talking about “married” versus “single,” I showed the students a picture of a man on a couch by himself eating popcorn and smiling. All the elderly Nepalese women started chanting, “Freedom!” It was a wonderful laughter moment.
As instructors, we need to incorporate laughter in our classrooms. As students relax, they learn more. As students laugh, they remember more. A third instructor, a veteran of over 20 years, used to watch the clip, Lucy and the Chocolate Factory, as she taught students about job skills and assembly lines. I could often hear the clip through the partitioned wall as both the video audience and her students laughed.
Our students often come to us scared, nervous, unsure of themselves. They know how little English they understand, and they worry about trying to learn when the teacher does not even speak their language. So it is the laughter that brings us together, the laughter that transcends the language barriers. After sharing laughter, the students become friends, become a cohort. They can work together and find the common ground. They find someone else with the same goals and desires even though they have come from so many varied backgrounds. Laughter brings us, as a community, together.
So it is with heartfelt wishes that we say goodbye to some of our staff this summer, and we say hello to some new teachers. And we laugh with joy, joy of memories and joy for future successes. Laughter is, after all, a most beautiful thing.
Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor
300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103