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JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: Teachers, make them laugh!

In view of what is happening in Texas and Louisiana it doesn't seem right to write a column about laughter. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes including all of their worldly treasures. They have been uprooted and displaced. It will take them months and maybe years to return to some kind of normalcy.

I can imagine what young people are thinking. When will school begin? When will I be able to return home? Do we still have a home? What about my toys? Where are my friends? Where are Grandma and Grandpa?

We were fearful of atomic bombs during my younger days. There are lots of stories about "duck and cover" drills in school. No one ever talked to us about why we were doing the drills or about how remote the chances were of the Soviets dropping a bomb on a tiny southern Minnesota town. No one consoled our worst fears.

Like many of you, I can remember the Soviet Missile crisis of the 60s. Adults were worried; kids were worried. I was worried. Then there were the events of 9/11. We all worried about what might be happening next.

Does laughter have a place in catastrophic events? Young people have a hard time understanding the complexities of tragedies. As adults we look for ways to shield them from things they may not understand. We want to comfort them in their time of need. We say, "Don't worry. Things will be fine." And, we pray that they will be.

The worst thing adults can do is rob young people of those carefree days of growing up when they should be riding their bikes, going to camp, catching a fish, celebrating birthdays, having friends over and going on family vacations. Unfortunately we can't control Mother Nature.

One way to ease their burdens is through laughter. As an educator I learned the importance of how laughter connects positively with learning as well as with our overall mental well-being. Learning should be fun and laughter is one vehicle for making it fun. This is why I enjoy telling riddles and jokes regardless of the age group I am teaching. They may not remember the content of what I am teaching but they are likely to remember the riddle or joke and if they can leave my classroom with smiles on their faces, that is good. Kids need to grow up with smiles on their faces.

Here are 10 pretty good back-to-school riddles teachers can use to dispel some of those worries that kids have when they enter school during those first stress filled days.

Riddles for kids.

1. What did the father buffalo say to his son as he went off to school, "Bye son" (bison). (This is one of my all time favorite riddles.)

2. Why is it so hot in a football stadium after a game? All the fans have left!

3. Why do fish swim in saltwater? Pepper makes them sneeze.

4. Why do seagulls fly over the sea? Because if they flew over the bay, they would be bay gulls (bagels)! (Another one of my all time favorites.)

5. Why was the teacher wearing sunglasses to school? She had bright students!

6. Why did the student eat his homework? Because he didn't have a dog.

7. Why didn't the nose want to go to school? Because he was getting picked on.

8. How did the music teacher get locked in her classroom? Her keys were inside the piano.

9. Why did the clock in the cafeteria run slow? It always went back four seconds.

10. Why didn't the sun go to college? Because it already had a million degrees!

11. Why did the whale eat two ships carrying potatoes? Because you just can't eat one potato ship. (Another one of my favorites.)

This joke is just for teachers:

The weekend assignment for a third grade was to sell something and then share with the class how they did. Sarah said, "I sold Girl Scout cookies and I made $30." "Very good," said the teacher. Kim was next, "I sold magazines," she said, "I made $45 and I explained to everyone that magazines would keep them up to date on the news." "Very good, Kim," said the teacher. Next it was Luke's turn. Luke walked to the front of the classroom and dumped a box full of cash on the teacher's desk. "$2,467" he said. "$2,467!" cried the teacher, "What in the world were you selling?" "Toothbrushes." "Toothbrushes?" echoed the teacher, "How could you possibly sell enough toothbrushes to make that much money?" "I found the busiest corner in town," said Luke. "I set up a chocolate chip cookie stand and gave everybody who walked by a free sample. They all said, "This tastes like POOP!" Then I replied, "It is. Wanna buy a toothbrush?"

Keep kids laughing and they will have a wonderful year. More important, you will too.

Riddle: What happened when the wheel was invented? It caused a revolution! We would have a revolution in education if we could ensure that all kids came home from school smiling.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.