Friday 7 September 2012

Sian's Storytelling Sunday: Oh. You meant *that* laughter


Yes this is my contribution to Sian's Storytelling Sunday [a tale-telling event on the 1st Sunday of each  new month at From High in the Sky] ... and yes, this is Friday. But let's not allow a matter of days to spoil the moment eh? [Plus, fortunately Sian welcomes entries for a whole week afterwards].

And so ... here's a story inspired by Sian's suggestion of sharing a school related story.

But first, you need to know: part-time, during term time, I work as an 'EPA' (Educational Personal Assistant) in a University supporting students with disabilities. Basically whatever their impairment prevents them from doing then - under their direction - I do instead.

It can be as simple as opening doors or carrying bags right up to taking notes, reading aloud, using equipment on their behalf ... and all kinds of other, intriguing and not always predictable activities.

And there's a Golden Rule for EPAs. One which is stressed by management during initial training and re-stressed again and again and again afterwards:

You don't get involved.

It's not your course.

It's the student's.

Do not take away their chance to have as independent student experience as possible.

In practise this means when you're at work - nothing's about you.
  • You don't answer questions in lectures ... even when you know the answer and no one else is offering anything!
  • You don't offer opinions in class discussions ... even when implored by desperate tutors;
  • You don't correct mistakes in work that the student hasn't noticed ...even when you know it's during their final exam of a Masters degree ... (oh my, was that a tough 2 hours!);
In short: you sit on your hands, bite your tongue and act like a shadow.

And some days following that Golden Rule is hard to do.

And on others?

Oh ... on others you thank your lucky stars it exists ... like days when you have to accompany a student to a 'Laughter Workshop' ...

Oh. You meant *that* laughter

"I'm not sure what I'll have to do, but I'm interested in stand-up comedy, so I thought I'd sign up and see what it is".

So said the student as we made our way to the Fresher's Week event billed as a 'Laughter Workshop'.

Fine by me.  I try to be funny [you might not have noticed]. I'm interested in comedy. I might pick up a tip or two for myself.  I can think of worse ways to spend an autumnal afternoon. Except ...

Except there'd been a slight misunderstanding in the promotion of this event and ... and well ... well it wasn't about stand-up comedy.

At all.

[Not unless I ever decide a fancy a stint as a stand-up, in which case I'm definitely working it into my routine!]

Because this was one of those workshops where you literally have to LOL.

And you do it:
  • LOUDLY ... and quietly.
  •  From your belly. Fom your throat.
  • At different p i t c h e s.
  • At different    s     p     e      e       d    s
  • While standing.
  • While sitting.
  • Stopping just short of ROFLMAO-ing
  • With your shoulders.
  • With strangers ...
  • but without jokes!

Take a moment now to imagine the scene. And the stunned students in attendance.

Meanwhile, the lady giving the class was straight from central casting: middle-class. Wearing a rainbow knitted jumper. Smelling strongly of incense. Honestly, if I'd made any of that up I'd have worried about over-stereotyping and being too far-fetched.

... and all that's even before I tell you that this self-proclaimed 'laughter therapist' was getting more and more frustrated at the very low number in attendance; she mumbled and complained that her event had not been publicised properly and tried valiantly to manage her annoyance that those who had turned up were expecting a comedy class.

And what was the song she was playing - in a constant loop - while she expressed this tension and frustration?

Well, that would be: Don't Worry, Be Happy.

I kid you not.

And ... when, as was inevitable, she turned my way ...

... and extended a well meaning invitation for me to join in ... with all that laughing-like-a-crazy-person-in-public-activity ...

... then never, never, neither before nor since, have I been happier to do as I was told.

To play by the rules.

To state management policy.

"I'm sorry" I replied ... "we're not meant to impinge on the student experience ... I'm really not allowed to join in ... ".

All together now: Don't worry ... be happy ... don't worry be happy now ... ooh, oooh ooooh oooo

Julie ;-)


  1. A laughter workshop? I'm going to be thinking about this all weekend now :)

    First blog post I've read today - and it's a cracker! (as a famous local comedian used to say..)

    Thanks Julie. Now I'm laughing and that's without actually being workshopped..

  2. what an interesting role - and you have me laughing with this story

  3. Yep, I'm laughing too... Do you think that laughter tutor would be pleased to know that she had at least caused blog readers to laugh in many different ways?

    *goes away whistling Don't Worry, Be Happy tune*

  4. Coward! This story made *me* laugh out loud TFS!

  5. Hahaha... well, you got me laughting anyway! (and smirking in a "serve the rainbow jumper lady right" kind of way...
    Maybe she should've put up her own posters, with an explanation...
    I hope your student wasn't too disappointed though.

    And now I will be singing that song in my head all day...

    Thanks for the smiles!

  6. What a great story - glad you joined in. And what an insane class to teach! Did you keep looking around for the hidden camera?

  7. *G* Did that make anyone laugh as much as it did us?

  8. Oh, J, loved the way you wrote this! So funny! I remember seeing a programme about some millionnaire who paid a laughter therapist to make him laugh every morning, before work, because he said it made him more productive. Having told this to hubby, he proceeded to try it out for a can imagine the scene, all of them laughing their heads off, me laughing out loud watching them laughing, them laughing more as I laughed.....hilarious! And you know what, I did feel so much more productive that much so that we do make sure we have regular laughing sessions, just for the fun of it!!!!!

  9. That is bonkers?? What did the student think who signed up? As a teacher I do sometimes get annoyed at support assistants who answer questions before any of the students have the chance to and think - yeah we know you know you're an adult!!!

  10. Brilliant - I can so imagine the students faces - maybe we should try it at our place - maybe not :0)

  11. LOLOL!!!! ( sorry,couldn't resist) ;)

  12. Ha ha! That is priceless!! I think we all need to attend this workshop!

  13. Oh...M...G! The HORROR!

    But am chuckling at the thought of it - what a nightmare though! Seriously! :D

    So you're job is a bit like the guides we are seeing at the moment in the Paralympics? What a cool thing to do for people and it be your job!

  14. Brilliant story-telling and it has made me laugh without even attending. You set the scene gloriously!

  15. OK, I'm going to have that tune on my mind for hours now! I have never heard of that kind of workshop before, how strange. I am a bit of a giggler though. And when something has really amused me, it will keep crossing my mind as time goes by and I'll start laughing again for no apparent reason. Maybe I need to find a workshop to go to ...

  16. Hilarious!! we could have been there with you its so brilliantly written!

  17. Thanks for giving me a rip roaring laugh! Wow, sounds like that lady could use a taste of her own workshop!

  18. well, let's just call the workshop a huge success because it has encouraged many of us to laugh. I was a university note taker for deaf students when i was in college, most of the time I was quite happy that I was a silent presence in the room.

  19. There are workshops like this one run in our local park from time to time; it is a very strange sight to see on a Saturday morning - but, lots of people end up watching and joining in so it can't be all that bad!


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