Is There a Place for Teasing & Sarcasm?

When I was at Ricks College (yeah, I'm that old), my psychology professor taught an entire unit on teasing and sarcasm. It was his opinion that there is no place for teasing and sarcasm--that no matter how harmless it may seem to us, the person we're teasing or being sarcastic toward could suffer emotionally.

His across-the-board denouncement of teasing and sarcasm was not easily accepted by the class and examples were given of times when teasing and sarcasm were used in good humor, as a sign of affection and even as a way some people bond.

I understood what the professor was saying. I'd experienced times when I'd laughed while being teased when inside, I was trying not to cry. But I also had personal examples where sarcasm and teasing were done out of love--my family teased me about many things. Even though my grandpa was sarcastic, we knew he still loved us. I've been known to be pretty sarcastic and I sometimes tease. Sometimes my sarcasm is in the course of a debate or disagreement, but more often, I mean it in humor. Because it doesn't seem like an issue that can be classified as completely right or completely wrong, I haven't spent much time thinking about it. Until last week.

Last week my children started school. Joe, my child who loves school more than any of my children and has had perfect attendance the past three years, came home on the first day a little upset. He told me of a situation where the teacher, who had never met Joe before that day, singled him out, calling attention to him in a negative way because she "likes to embarrass kids." I asked him if she was joking and he said, "I don't know. I hope so." The second day was worse, with Joe being singled out again in a situation that caused him to sit at his desk, with his head down, crying. Twice. Not a comfortable position for a 6th grade boy.

As I've dealt with this situation, I've been told by more than one person that this teacher is sarcastic and likes to tease the children. That's why she chooses to teach the older elementary grades.

In fairness, I should say that the third and fourth days of school were great and Joe came home very happy. Were the first two days just his 6th grade hazing and now that that's over we can all move ahead?

But what about those first two days? And what about teasing and sarcasm? If you're prone to those behaviors, should there be some ground rules--there must be a certain level of familiarity or not with children younger than a certain age? Is there a place for it? Is this a chance for Joe to develop a thicker skin and is it a good thing?

Or is there no place for it?

Please tell me what you think. I'd really like your opinions.


LL said...

Interesting the different emotions I felt just reading this.
I love sarcasm. It's totally my kind of humor, in our family you'd be eaten alive if you couldn't handle sarcasm. But, thats in the family, not a school teacher.
My heart broke as I read that your son was in tears at his desk. That is not ok, and as a mother..i'd be really upset.
I'm happy to hear the following days have been good for him. But no, I don't think the teacher should tease the kids.
Now, with that being said. Some of my kids YM leaders are sarcastic and tease my boys, but my kids love it and they love their leaders.
So, I'm not sure. Thats a hard line to draw.
I guess for me, if you have a personal relationship/friendship that is secure a little sarcasm can be fun.
And a thicker skin helps :-)
I hope your kids have a great school year!!!

Anonymous said...

I suppose I would have to have a better understanding as to what was being said. That would be a difference maker to me. Generally speaking though, in today's "egg shell" world of political correctness, I am inclined to think that a teacher would 1) have to have a pretty good understanding of what would be considered going too far and 2) have experience in quickly determining which students may or may not be able to handle her "teasing." If both of these factors have been taken into account by the teacher, then maybe your son could use some "skin thickening." You might want to consider it a positive that the teacher felt your son could endure the teasing. Consider the possibility that the teacher determined rather quickly that your son seemed like a kid with a strong sense of self-worth and character. That could have been the case, which would say something good about your son. Like I said though, I would have to know what was said to give an opinion on whether or not the teacher went too far.

missy said...

I've also heard that there is no place for sarcasm. Ever. I once heard someone say - in a devotional at Ricks College, no less - that he's "never met a sarcastic person who had the spirit of the Lord."

However, I am sarcastic. Sometimes I'm torn because I know it can be hurtful, but it's also quite prevalent in the family I grew up in and we still like to tease each other. We get it. We laugh. We move on.

I wonder if the difference is in the relationship. If someone I didn't already have an established relationship with was sarcastic towards me (like a new teacher, for example) I'm not sure I'd know how to handle that. I might be embarrassed or confused. Other times the relationship might be well established, but the situation is somewhat tense. I remember a roommate in college who said something sarcastic and laughed it off, but she was hitting below the belt and it really stung.

To your son's teacher, I'd say, "How dare you!" I know that life is hard and we all need to toughen up, but for a teacher who should be safe and kind to go out of her way to embarrass kids, where is the trust?

Good post. You've got me thinking!

Karey said...

I hope that she ends up being a teacher he likes because of her humor, but I have to wonder at her timing.

It's funny because the first day I was more bugged than Joe, but the second day he was hurt. I think it was mostly because the mocking came when he was trying to do a good thing. No good deed goes unpunished.

I just think there has to be more of a relationship before sarcasm is used. I think you need a close enough relationship with each other that you know how each other will react or you feel confident sticking up for yourself if it goes too far.

The first couple of days of school aren't really like that.

I am opposed to fighting all our kids battles and taking offense too easily. I want my kids to be able to handle life without withering and I think political correctness has gone completely overboard.

I sound like I'm all over the map on this. Can you see why I wanted some feedback?

Leslie said...

sarcasm and teasing should only be used when you are familiar with each other, especially when it comes from adult to child. kids don't understand it in a lot of situations...

not a good idea teacher.