The power of humor


Alice Leader, a close family friend and former ASL teacher who currently runs the Master Classes for ASL parents, once told me that “as soon as you learn to laugh about something, then you have conquered it.”

Those wise words have come in handy for me time and time again. Life, it is trite to say, is full of ups and downs. I have lost count of the amount of times that laughter in the company of close friends and family has gotten me through the downs.

But, to perhaps speak more to what Leader was really trying to tell me, humor can help one conquer their fears. I used to dread public speaking, for example. Last April, I was tasked with delivering a speech at Middle East Night about my final important conversation with my recently deceased grandfather about the ongoing civil war in our homeland of Syria. I was under the immense pressure of getting an incredibly intimate and important message across to an audience that filled up the Commons. My grandfather’s story, moreover, deserved a confident and assured retelling.

While waiting anxiously for my turn to speak at the podium, Leader’s wise words returned to me. The moment was almost epiphanic. Now, I did not turn to my friends all of a sudden and start cracking jokes. It was neither the time nor the place for that. But my grandfather’s warm smile etched itself into my conscience amid memories of his retellings of humorous tales, all of which preceded his deep, hearty chuckle. I allowed myself a brief smile before delivering a speech that brought one ASL teacher to tears. Humor effectively let me overcome my fear.

The power of humor

ASL is an environment full of, if not dictated by, fear. Day-in and day-out, students are juggling the dread of facing difficult exams and other academic challenges with the relationships they have with their peers. That assessment, I must add, does not even take into account the difficulties that students might be bringing into school from home. A good laugh or two every now and then would only improve the morale of a student body that is generally overstressed and moody more than it is relaxed and content.

Imagine if humor was more commonplace in the classroom. There is a reason why I always left World Languages Teacher Victoria Hamadache’s Spanish class last year grinning from ear to ear. Her classroom was a place guided by her jovial demeanor and frequent lighthearted jokes in addition to, of course, her consistently outstanding instruction. This setting allowed me to conquer all my fears and therefore perform to the best of my abilities in my bid to achieve mastery of a language.

I am not calling for teachers to start teaching while wearing a clown nose and to demonstrate key concepts using circus props, nor am I asking for the employment of a stand-up comedian to roam the hallways in search of gloomy students to cheer up. But it seems to me that humor has recently fallen out of favor at ASL.

Consider the cancellations of The Slanderd last year and the Halloween assembly dating game this year – two annual traditions that consistently brought smiles to the faces of ASL students removed without similar alternatives taking their places.

Humor brings the community together. Just think about all the times you have grown closer to your friends after laughing so hard with them that you barely emitted a noise and your sides began to hurt.

I applaud Principal Jack Phillips’ decision to call all willing participants, faculty and students alike, down to the stage at the the High School assembly that took place just before Thanksgiving break. Those who were brave enough to step up to the microphone shared what they were thankful for in an uplifting and heartwarming event that undoubtedly brought the ASL community closer together. And while we should be thankful every day, not just during a particular holiday, we should also find the time every day to simply forget about our stressors and just laugh.

Our academic and relationship-related fears do not deserve to down our collective morale so much. Humor is there to rescue us, like it did for me at Middle East Night.