SARCASM in the classroom? My two rules….

Many Educational Experts will tell you never to be sarcastic with kids.  I do not agree with them.  To me sarcasm is like an extremely dangerous chemical in the chemistry lab.  If you do not know how to use it stay the heck away, because you can blow up your relationships with kids.  If you know how it can be a strong relationship builder.  There is not much in between.   Be sure to follow my two rules and your sarcastic moments will be a success!

1.  When being sarcastic it must be clearly obvious you are joking.  The student(s) should laugh.  If they do not laugh apologize quickly.  “I am so sorry I was totally just messing around.  I joke around sometimes.  I promise I was kidding.”  Be adamant that you are sorry.  It is better to be sarcastic with entire groups than individuals.  For example, I recently taught a seminar in Buffalo.  At one point we were talking about football and I said, “Wait.  You guys have a football team here?  I didn’t realize that.”  Then I immediately said, “Hey.  I am a Jets fan so I cannot really talk.”  Everyone laughed.  If you are being sarcastic with an individual be sure you already have a good relationship with that student.  If it is the whole group pick a broad topic to joke about.

2.  If you can dish it you better be able to take it.  This one drove me nuts as a teacher.  I had colleagues that would mess with kids.  They would dish it right back and the teacher would write them up!  No way.  You either dish it and take it or you do not dish it at all.

An example of a student who  got me good…..

Me:  Dan (high school senior).  That is an awesome shirt.  That color looks really good on you.  Keep wearing shirts like that.

Dan: Really Mr. Mendler?  You like it?

Me:  Yes.  Although you know it would look better on me though right?

Dan: Why would it look better on you?

Me:  Because I am better looking than you.  But don’t worry.  You keep working on your looks and someday you will look as good as me.  I started walking away.

Dan:  Ok Mr. Mendler.  Sure.  But you know what I have on that would look awesome on you for real?

Me:  What?

Dan:  Hair! I got mad for real.  This is how I know he got me good.  Of course I was only allowed to be mad for a few seconds.  Then we both laughed and shook hands.  For anyone to tell me “never” to do that is crazy.  In fact, be careful using the words always and never.  Instead look at every individual situation and do your best to get it right.

For more strategies, ideas and suggestions please check out my latest book titled, “That One Kid.”  Available at