Building Resilient Communities through Levity and Joy
Boston, MA, March 2023
When asked why we don't use humor in our work, we have lots of reasons not to. We don't want to offend. We want to be taken seriously. We don't want to encourage others who may take it too far. However, the opposite is true when it comes to utilizing levity and humor in our school communities. The more we are open to levitous moments, the more we are seen as clever, alert, in-tune, in-charge, and approachable. Levity is a term to describe a "lightness" or "buoyancy" in a situation. Creating a culture of levity is not just 'nice to have', but is essential in building trustful and resilient teams. We instinctively know that a good laugh can instantly break the ice and bond a group. In fact when we laugh we ignite our nervous system to release hormones which endear us to each another. But is it really necessary? Yes!
We only need to look out our front doorstep to see one of the largest companies in the world use humor to great effect.
Why would Amazon choose to spend time, money, and resources to put such a frivolous message on the side of millions of boxes? "Last-minute diorama?" Are you serious? Who is that message for? I'll tell you who it was for...me. This is the box and message I found in front of me as I was staring off in the distance, trying to envision an upcoming elementary student exhibit. As I was thinking of the different displays and visuals the students were preparing to delight their families, I came face-to-face with this message. Perfectly timed, perfectly placed, and perfectly pitched. I doubt that the packaging and marketing team that devised this little Easter Egg knew how perfectly the message would hit me...like finding a perfectly sized tray for sentence analysis strips at a flea market. However, they did know that it would hit for many people at many levels. Many people have some memory in their childhood of searching for a box which they can transform into a display for their T-rex pre-historic biome. But the question remains...why did Amazon do this? Why?
Amazon knows, like we know as educators, that people are motivated based on positive relationships: Amazon's relationship with their customers, and our relationship with our students and their families. Through relationship we can do anything. We can create the biggest company the world has ever seen, and we can teach developing minds how to read, write, care for each other, and to build beautiful diorama displays to delight anyone who sees it.
If you're Amazon, how do you build a relationship with millions of faceless customers? Amazon does this mostly using algorithms that attempt to know us better than we know ourselves. But they also know something, that we know too. That when building relationships the quickest and most surefire route is through humor. Humor is a lightening bolt to our collective hearts. When we laugh, we recognize our humanness, and human connection is everything.
Amazon has a much tougher job being humorous than we do. They, like us, may hesitate to use humor as it may offend. They may not be taken seriously. Or, the joke may go too far. However, we have an advantage...a home-court advantage. We share time, experiences, and commonalities with our students, colleagues, and families, and these are the ingredients for conjuring humorous and levitous moments.
One of the great ways to inject humor into your community is to pick on 'agreed annoyances'. These are areas which everyone has noticed as a problem or as irksome. In Montessori, there are just a few things that can be annoying...ok, more than a few. Ever loose that top cube of the pink tower? Of course you have! And so have all primary Montessori classrooms all over the world! And that is why that little irksome elusive top pink cube is ripe for injecting humor and levity. It is a perfect candidate for injecting humor. Our friends at the Montessori swag shop Metal Insect picked up on this and created this button:
It is a perfectly honed joke! No one is offended! In fact, the opposite has happened. It is smart, clever, and delightful. I'm enchanted by the magic and would like to have a coffee/beer/wine with the author. Why? Because 'they get me'. They understand this frustration. And they made me smile.
Looking out for an "Agreed Annoyance" is one way to inject levity into our daily community lives. During the AMS workshop session we covered three other ways to find and lift up moments to levitous heights: "Same old, same old", Observational, and Self.
As a leader of a community, share your infallibility and share your humanness. These are the building-blocks to trust and resilience within teams. Tough times will always be just around the corner for any school community, but with an abundant attitude of levity, we can better ride these times together.