One fine day in my little education world…I witnessed the negative power of sarcasm. I was hanging with a colleague who became frustrated with a student’s lack of effort. The young man did not have his assignment. Instead of asking the kid…
- What happened?
- Were you unclear on instructions?
- Tell me what’s up.
- Let me help.
my teacher comrade responded to the news of the student’s lack of preparation with sarcasm, “Wow…that’s really going to prepare you to compete in the global economy!” This volley was well received by the rest of the class. There was much laughter and a few of the young guy’s classmates tossed in some verbal darts aimed at the youngster to support their teacher. The young man laughed too, although he blushed. I wondered if he was really okay with the barb.
This entire episode might seem innocent. I’ll argue however, that it was a poor relational move on the instructor’s part. The teacher absolutely elevated himself at the expense of his student. I don’t know if the kid was injured by the comment, but it’s conceivable that the sarcasm could have reinforced many of the insecurities the boy already had about himself. While his exterior was saying, “Good one Mr. X. You got me there!” Internally, he may have thought, Wow. I guess it’s true. Maybe, I am irresponsible. Maybe, I do have a bleak future.
I certainly don’t know if these thoughts were deviling this kid, but why risk it? I’ll argue that you should purge sarcasm from your classroom. This may be a tall order because sarcasm can be a vice. At the time of consumption it feels real good, but the aftershocks can be unsavory. Let’s get rid of this tendency and your students can help in this process.
Sarcasm can poison relationships and undermine student confidence.
Purge this vice from your classroom.
What you can do Tomorrow:
- Discuss the origins of the word sarcasm.
- Confess to your kids a time when you used sarcasm and it didn’t end well.
- Have student role-play when they have been the victims of sarcasm.
- Challenge kids to utilize sarcasm in an appropriate way, like the creation of an editorial cartoon.
- Deputize your kids to police your use of sarcasm.
Sarcasm may seem harmless, but its impact can be devastating. Purge this tendency and engage your kids in the process.