I honestly don’t understand why sarcasm gets such a bad rap. It’s a very effective tool for so many things, especially teaching and parenting which are my main areas of expertise and experience. People rush to hear my very words on the subject.
Yes, that was sarcasm. First lesson complete.
When it comes to teaching, especially middle school students, it’s simply another way of reaching among the constant noise going on in their distracted and befuddled brains. The poor mites are overwhelmed with messages bombarding them day and night, and there has to be a method to clearly slice through and get your vital message across. “No, by all means, Johnny, sneeze into your hands and then ask me to borrow a pencil; that’s a good science experiment. We can track how many people use that pencil today and see who stays home sick tomorrow and the next day, what do you say?” At this point Johnny is not quite sure what is going on, when all he expected was a “Yes, darling, of course you may borrow a pencil” and now he is suddenly being assigned a science project in music class? What the? But at least I have his attention, as well as everyone else in the room who was within earshot and they are now wondering where this is going. Johnny looks at me, half-smiling, half-confused. I wait, wondering if this child will be one of the golden ones who can pick up and move the script along. Johnny takes a deep breath, looks at my desk, and brilliantly comes up with “What?”
Second sarcasm lesson: Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s just amusing.
I love it when a Johnny catches on and plays with me. “No, by all means, Johnny, sneeze into your hands and then ask me to borrow a pencil; that’s a good science experiment. We can track how many people use that pencil today and see who stays home sick tomorrow and the next day, what do you say?” “I say, Mrs. Sarcasm, that unless I’m getting extra credit this conversation is over.” Well done, Johnny! Now wash those hands and come get a pencil. You have redeemed yourself in my sarcastic eyes and the class is smiling. We all know smiling students are learning students, right?
I once had an administrator chide me during an observation for being sarcastic. It was explained to me with exaggerated patience that students have delicate and easily-hurt egos, and that the slightest breath of sarcasm would be damaging to their psyches. I would never know what sort of scars I was inflicting upon them to be worn for all eternity. To which I replied that my mantra of I-only-tease-the-people-I-really-love and my constant warm smiles and my affirmation that they are smart young folks headed somewhere awesome if they would just stay true to themselves would be more likely the takeaway they would have when all was said and done. I think I got up to the word “really” and the administrator’s violent ADD kicked in and she started playing with the very pencil Johnny borrowed after the sneeze and I watched in fascination as she tapped it on her upper lip then said “Whatever. Just don’t be sarcastic.”
Third sarcasm lesson: wait long enough, and justice shall surely be served.
Sarcasm is an effective parenting tool, as well.
But that’s a story for another day.
Update! Haven’t walked since that first day, aren’t you proud? I did spend three days helping my daughter move out of her apartment, but since I rewarded myself each day with pizza or burgers, I don’t think I’m going to count that in the self-improvement checklist of my life.