A good sense of humor and a healthy dose of sarcasm can be essential tools for getting through a teaching day. Most of us can probably agree that it’s fine to make an occasional sarcastic comment in the teachers’ lounge or with our colleagues. But should teachers use sarcasm in the classroom, when interacting with students? This question recently came up on the WeAreTeachers Helpline, and teachers were quick to weigh in with their pros and cons.
Pros of using sarcasm in the classroom:
1. It’s part of the real world.
“Sarcasm is my second language,” says teacher Brittany C. “You are just exposing them to various forms of language in which they will use later in life.” Meghan M. adds: “Better to learn how to recognize and understand sarcasm from a caring educator than send them into the world with no idea of how to deal with it.”
2. It can build connection.
“I teach teens,” says teacher Ayn N. “I think sarcasm, when done lovingly, can be one of the best ways to develop a connection. My trick is to be sarcastic about *myself* or be super ridiculous about it so that people get a laugh not a sting. For example, I might say something like: This test is super easy. My dog took it last night and did it blindfolded and passed with flying colors, so you should have no problems.”
“I use it all the time and the kids love it,” echoes Kimberly T. “Be who you are and who your kids love.”
3. It can be a classroom management tool.
“Sarcasm helps me correct students without calling them out,” says teacher Katherine K. “It’s my second language and teens get me.”
Cons of using sarcasm in the classroom:
1. Students may not “get it,” even when they act like they do.
“I use sarcasm regularly in my private life,” says teacher Laina L. “However, as a teacher I am very cautious about using it in the classroom. Many students actually don’t get sarcasm and often won’t admit it. Students with language processing issues, ENL students, autistic students and students with learning disabilities all have trouble recognize and understand sarcasm. Many of my high school students really do not get it.”
2. Some experts advise against it.
“Marzano is 100% against using sarcasm,” says teacher Myrna P. “I hear it said at every TPEP training. Danielson also focuses on building positive interactions and relationships with students.”
3. Admins often frown on it.
“Most places will dock you for using sarcasm,” says teacher Mindy J.
Kristina H. agrees, but adds “You have to understand where your admin is coming from, too. If you see something that a student takes the wrong way, the admin is the one who has to deal with an angry parent. “You’d be surprised how many students don’t understand sarcasm or are offended.”
What’s your opinion, teachers? Is there a place for sarcasm in the classroom, or should it be saved for after school?