Being Good All the Time Would be Boring

Listening to James Altucher interview Paul Mercurio, Mercurio said, “Brian Regan said it best: It would be really boring if you killed all the time.”

These are comedians. They stand in front of people (often drunk, rude people) and tell jokes for a living. I have no experience with this, but I feel like I can relate somewhat. He followed up that quote by talking about how sometimes he goes on stage and a certain piece works. Other times he does the same piece and it doesn’t work. Maybe something happened to them before you started speaking. But if every time he went up and everything that came out of his mouth either make people laugh or got the same response, it would be boring. Part of the fun, it seems, is in not being sure of how they are going to react to the material.

I’ve long said that part of what I like about being a teacher is the performance aspect. Yes, I like being a positive change in students’ lives. I love that I can help them understand concepts, be part of their journey into adulthood, and toss juicy bits of knowledge into their hungry minds, but I love being on stage.

I’ve had teaching jobs where I had to deliver the same lesson to up to seven (yes, seven) classes in a week. That was years ago. More recently, it’s only been three or four. It’s amazing to me the difference in response that I get to the same story. I’ll tell a story in one class and they all laugh. I tell the same story the same way to another class and I may get a snicker from one kid in the back. Then I’ll try it again and get nothing. It’s the same with a reading comprehension exercise or explaining a grammar structure. Sometimes it flies and sometimes it doesn’t.

One of the most fascinating parts of teaching for me is reading a class. Each class has a different personality. Sometimes they are mostly smart, funny and ready to learn. Sometimes a cynic has infected the class and they all tend towards a sneer and an eye roll. I’ve had classes of students that have lost so many students through the year or semester that it’s like And Then There Were None. (Never seen that movie? It’s good.) They’re all looking around wondering who’s next.

The variety that we get to experience during a week (or even during a day) is truly one of the great joys of teaching. I’m constantly having to read my ‘audience’ and adjust my material (intellectually or humoristically). Did something just happen? Did they just get bad news or did someone finally read them the riot act? It’s part of the fun. It keeps me on my toes. And while there are 25 other people in the room who are sentient beings affecting the mood of the room in some small way, I take ownership of my classroom, so I feel like what’s happening has something to do with me.

It might not, but at the end of it all I always feel like that if my classes were fabulous all the time, it would be really boring.

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