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Go on! Have a laugh!

When the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies. And now when every new baby is born its first laugh becomes a fairy.                                                                                                              J.M. Barrie

There is something quite magical about laughter. As parents, there are fewer things more beautiful than hearing your newborn laugh for the very first time. It is life-affirming, positive and extremely powerful. Research suggests that the average infant may laugh up to 400 times a day, and that this number decreases dramatically as we get older (the average adult laughs about 15 times a day). As human beings, we seek out opportunities to laugh. We recognise the need for it, and we sometimes crave moments of side-splitting guffawing. The proliferation of comedy clubs, and comedic acts are testament to this. There is a whole genre devoted to plays and films that are intended to make us laugh, ranging from absurd slapstick, to more cerebral, highbrow humour, that requires quick wit and presence of mind to engage with.

Pilgrims’ boys love to laugh, and they relish opportunities to share their quirky sense of humour with others. Pilgrims’ Got Talent is a wonderful event intended for us to experience the lighter side of life at school, and all for a good cause at that. It is also a fantastic opportunity to laugh with each other, and to celebrate that which makes each of us uniquely, well, funny!

In A Christmas Carol, Dickens wrote: “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour,” and he is right. Think of the times you’ve caught a friend’s eye as you’ve both spotted something that you’ve found funny; but it’s not appropriate to laugh out loud. And each time you look up, you catch the other’s eye, and want to start giggling all over again. This goes on for ages, and what a relief when you’re finally able to let that laughter loose! Humour can bind us together like that, creating a shared memory that lasts long after the moment is past.

Humour is a good thing in schools. The teachers we remember most fondly are often those who made us laugh during lessons, and in that way connected us to the material being covered. It somehow ignited our faculties of learning, and hardwired the memory of that concept in a way that it has remained easy to access, even years later. Zak Stambor from The American Psychological Association says, “When used effectively, classroom comedy can improve student performance by reducing anxiety, boosting participation and increasing students' motivation to focus on the material.”

Humour is vital in a school setting, and there are a number of reasons why it should be used when appropriate. It may create an environment where children feel okay about making the odd mistake. If we can teach children to make light of the small mistakes made from time to time, it will help them to learn that making a mistake is natural, and not something that should be dreaded. It may also help them to simply get back up and try again. For those of us who taught our own children at home during the pandemic, we know that there were times when humour was in short supply!

Children who are reticent to participate in class discussions, may be coaxed in through the use of humour. If a teacher is able to make the learning process light-hearted and fun, it may help those who are not usually keen to share their ideas to offer their thoughts in this less threatening context. A bit of humour put children at ease, and when they are comfortable, they tend to learn, and retain, information a lot better.

Humour is also something that binds us together because laughter is something best experienced with others. When we are able to share a joke, or laugh at an amusing situation with someone, it makes us feel like we are part of something special. This is also very true for families. Finding opportunities to laugh together is a wonderful way to spend time together and build special memories. Watching a funny family film together and sharing our favourite parts is a lovely way to pass the time.

As Easter approaches, and there is perhaps a little more time to spend together as families, let’s look for ways in which to experience the lighter side of life, and enjoy those we love.

Craig Cuyler

Director of Wellbeing


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