There are a few things that I recall from my high school days -- the school motto was one of them: "teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge." It served me well as a guide over the years but I always felt like there was something missing in that motto alone.
Years later, when I was working as a high school teacher, the three main things that I focussed on getting across to my students were: Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge. That was pretty similar to my old high school motto, so it was easy for me to remember and apply. I thought those three things were a good guide for my classes, but again I felt like there was something a little too dry about it that I couldn't quite put my finger on.
One day, during a contract placement teaching one of my favourite topics - Physics - I got some interesting advice from a seasoned teacher on my teaching approach. He said that I did well in the class but that he lived by a different motto: "any class that goes by without some humour and laughter is an hour wasted of the students' lives." And of course he said it with a smile. =)
It's interesting because I have always had this joie de vivre that everyone who gets to know me notices. I like to smile. I love to make jokes. I love to stop and smell the roses and listen to the wind and the trees. I have a penchant for puns and when the going gets tough, I get silly. =)
Yes, I suppose there are times when seriousness is called for. However, for the most part, life is too wonderous and entertaining not to be silly and enjoy and to make other people smile and lighten up too.
Up until that moment when I got that feedback from that teacher, I had been working on a different model: one where you are serious in your professional life and save the humour for your personal life.
After that moment, I ditched the old "professional = serious" model and decided for myself that every hour worth living was worth enjoying, regardless of whether I was at work or at play.
Needless to say, after that advice I began to share my passion for the subjects I taught in the funnest ways I could think of while still adhering to my teaching goals and objectives. A decade later, if you have ever attended one of my QA or Software Testing workshops, you would also know that it is always with a certain amount of levity that I share my experiences and knowledge. After all, if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at, right?
At work I'm the same. Always the professional, and always with the smile on my face or joke to add. Don't get me wrong.. I'm not a clown every hour, but not a day goes by that I don't try to do or say something to add a little levity or have some fun.
Here's where it gets interesting. 8-)
Not everyone sees it the same way. Some people are simply "no fun at all." In fact, I even worked with someone once with the nickname "the Director of No Fun."
(Aside: Hmm, I wonder if it is a particular trait of middle-management to have the least amount of a sense of humour? Maybe it's because they realise that their jobs are the most expendible, so they tend to try to look and act important all the time?)
Oh, but it's not just people at work.. there are many people out there in the world who have simply forgotten what it is like to have fun when interacting with other human beings. To these people, adding a smile to a thought or reply suddenly takes on a different meaning. Now you are being facetious or patronizing or sarcastic. Your words are not only not meant to be taken seriously, but you are insulting as well. Nice.
Interesting. Personally, I find that these words tell me more about the listener than they do about the speaker. In fact, it tells me that the listener is not really trying to listen at all because they are too busy imposing their own negativity on the world around them thereby tainting everything that they hear.
I feel very sad for these people. It really is a shame that negativity appears to be more predominant in modern society than positivity. Acting and speaking in ways that emphasize goodness, joy and happiness generally makes you the odd one out.
(Aside: It's fun to meet other 'positive' people at parties and elsewhere. It really causes an exponential increase in positive and silly energy that just invigorates and excites me. I don't think that most people can handle having more than one of us around at any one time. =D )
Which brings me back to my old alma mater's motto: "Bonitatem et disciplinam et scientiam doce me." That's a good start, however, I'm also adding: "et gaudium ostende me." My Latin might be a bit rusty, but I'm pretty sure that translates as "and show me joy/happiness/fun."
It's not enough to teach and be taught the right attitude, the right information or the right skills. I want to see the fun that other people have in their work and I want others to see the fun that I have in mine.
If you happen to see me with a smile when you meet me, please feel free to smile back. =)