Teachers frequently remark that no two seconds are the same in the classroom. My first teaching assignment was at the university level. Back in the day of reel to reel tapes, our German textbook employed the audio-lingual method. My university classes met weekly with me in the language lab. At the end of lessons, the tape included a German song for students to sing. I used to save this for the end to inject some music and humor into the lesson. At the teacher’s station, I could listen in as students practiced speaking German and could correct individually as needed. As a class, I could have everyone listen to portions of the tape I wanted to discuss from my teacher’s station.
The joy of the language lab was offering individualized instruction or involving the entire class. Students were expected to practice on their own in the lab outside of class as well. They wore headphones in the lab, so I cautioned them for the portion of singing the song, to have one ear uncovered as they sang the song. Otherwise, they sounded much like howling cats and dogs and were unaware of how they sounded to others not wearing the headsets.
On this particular Friday after the lesson, I instructed everyone to move their reel to reel tapes to where the song began. What possessed me to do that, remains unclear to this day. Suffice to say, I instructed everyone to begin their tapes and to start singing the German song. The problem, of course, was that thirty students began their tapes at thirty different moments and commenced singing what should have been a lovely song sung in unison. It was anything but. It was too late once I realized the error. So I sat at the teacher’s console doubled over in laughter at the resulting cacophony in the language lab.
In disbelief, thirty faces looked at me laughing with tears streaming down my face. I could barely get the words out to explain. The ensuing song was a disaster of what should have been a pleasant tune. We never sang the song using this method again. Live and learn and laugh along the way. Life is grand and never dull! Including humor in the classroom was an important teaching tool.