The Times-Mail

Make ’em laugh: Workshop helps teachers see a lighter side of education

By Heather Nichols

June 28, 2012

ORLEANS — Conferences and workshops can have a perception of being dull and boring ­— hours of lectures and a seemingly endless loop of technical information.

But an upcoming workshop in Orleans, designed for teachers, should sound more like a party.

Burton Kimble Farms, in conjunction with the Center for Lifelong Learning at Ivy Tech Community College, will offer a workshop on July 9 called “The Value of Humor in Teaching.”

The workshop, presented by Dr. Holly Burton Hoffman of Central Michigan University, will look at the role humor can play in the classroom to better engage students and enhance the learning experience.

The workshop will provide techniques a teacher can use to incorporate humor, basic modifications for existing lessons, how to become a more approachable person, and more importantly, to laugh. The event will serve as a “how-to” for teachers on engaging students in appropriate humor.

“I’m really looking forward to this class. There is lots of research on how humor in the classroom can help cognitively, socially and help with self-esteem,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman, who specializes in early childhood development and special education, has done extensive research in humor and made it the focus of her college dissertation. She went all over Michigan and sat in on countless classrooms focusing on humor.

“Everyone said that when you pick a topic for your dissertation, pick something that you really love cause you’ll be immersed in it. Don’t pick something that will drive you crazy,” Hoffman said. “People asked ‘You are studying this for your dissertation? Isn’t this a serious degree?,” Hoffman said.

She pointed out that many adults benefit from comedy, in books, sitcoms and movies but wondered why the same did not apply for children. She also believes if students look forward to something they may remember it more.

“We think about the benefits for adults but we don’t often think of taking something as serious as education and being light-hearted,” Hoffman said. “You don’t have to be funny to be humorous in the classroom, just be open-minded enough to sometimes allow your students to choose humorous reading materials.”

Hoffman believes while teachers who take a more light-hearted approach can often see benefits in their students, they also must have a strong sense of classroom management.

Classroom teachers are often faced with an overwhelming amount of data, assessments and stress. Hoffman believes adding humor to an everyday lesson may make the workload easier.

“To me I really think of (humor) as a coping mechanism, not only with the students in the class but also for the teacher,” she said.

Hoffman added, utilizing humor can engage the students, make them more responsive and improve their experience in school while costing little to the school’s budget.

“It doesn’t really cost any money … it’s about adjusting the attitudes of our students,” Hoffman said.

She believes educators who come to the workshop gain more than a laugh or two.

“I hope (teachers) walk away with a sense of being refreshed. They can take some time to reflect and give themselves credit for all the things they already do.”

Professional credit

The workshop will provide 5.5 contact hours, which can be used by teachers for license renewal.

Teachers in Indiana are required to renew their licenses by completing college courses or attending workshops such as these. Teachers must earn 90 Professional Growth Points to qualify for renewal. Every contact hour in professional development equals one point.

“This is a new avenue for teachers, and we wanted to be able to do it,” said farm owner Dr. Judith Burton. “If we can explain to the public what it is we are doing and reach the teachers we will continue doing things like this.”

Burton’s farm has been working with Ivy Tech Community College since the fall of 2009 offering personal and professional growth classes for adults. Burton hopes the farm serves as a gathering place for enrichment, relaxation, learning and fun.

“My hope is that people will come here and feel welcome and relaxed,” she said.

The cost of the workshop is $79, and will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for more information visit and choose “Short-term Training” or call (812) 330-6044.

Heather Nichols is the journalism teacher at Paoli High School and is serving an internship this summer with the Times-Mail.

ORLEANS — Burton Kimble Farms will serve as the host site for a teachers workshop on July 7. Dr. Holly Burton Hoffman of Central Michigan University will share “The Value of Humor in Teaching” through the Center for Lifelong Learning at Ivy Tech Community College. (Times-Mail / HEATHER NICHOLS)

If you go

What: Teacher workshop, “The Value of Humor in Teaching” — a “how-to” for teachers on engaging students in appropriate humor.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., July 9

Cost: $79

Info: Visit and choose “Short-term Training” or call (812) 330-6044.

Copyright: 2012

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.