The Art of Teaching is conversational in tone and quite easy and enjoyable reading so far. I have been amused by some of the generalizations made that would now be completely politically incorrect.
I am in the chapter on the teacher and what is required of him. What sort of a person should a teacher be?
One of the characteristics a teacher should possess, Highet says, is humor.
Do we laugh together?
One of the most important qualities of a good teacher is humor. Many are the purposes it serves. The most obvious one is that it keeps the pupils alive and attentive because they are never quire sure what is coming next.
Of course some subjects, notably the sciences, do not admit humorous treatment. There the wise teacher will continue to introduce flashes of humor extraneously, because he knows that fifty-five minutes of work plus five minutes’ laughter are worth twice as much as sixty minutes of unvaried work.
But not all humor is created equal:
Some teachers speak of humor as a useful instrument with which to control their classes. […] They begin by mocking a particular set of mistakes. Then they make fun of the boys who make these mistakes. Then they develop a bitter wit which thrives on every kind of personal defect, ruthlessly exposed.
Such teachers destroy potential brilliance, and they do so with selfish, proud humor. Actually, it’s not even humor.
No, humor must not be used to tyrannize a class. Usually irony and sarcasm are used because they imply intellectual domination; but not humor.
Now, here’s the real gem. Humor is about community, about humanity, about unity.
The real purpose of humor in teaching is deeper and more worthy. It is to link the pupils and the teacher, and to link them through enjoyment. A very wise of teacher once said: “I consider a day’s teaching is wasted if we do not all have one hearty laugh.” He meant that when people laugh together, they cease to be young and old, master and pupil, workers and driver, jailer and prisoners, they become a single group of human beings enjoying its existence.