Fall is officially upon us, so I’m writing another installment of my annual “Back to School Survival Guide.” I take my experiences as a student and my experiences as a teacher and use them to come up with some practical advice for school children. If you’re not in this age group, you may choose to read anyway for my amusing insights or you can just skip it and wait for the next one.

In past years, I’ve written about getting help from teachers and spotting bullies. This year I want to write about something more fun: classroom jokes and pranks.

Have you ever noticed how certain kids pull jokes all the time while others get busted whenever they open their mouths? Some kids just know what they can get away with. I’m going to try and explain why some jokes are okay while others lead to problems. (Disclaimer: Your results may vary, depending on school culture and teacher’s sense of humor. Please put advice from parents, teachers and principals ahead of the random advice you get from strangers on the internet. And don’t use my blog as an excuse for bad behavior. I don’t need that kind of trouble.)

Are Jokes Good or Bad?

Secretly, most teachers like a good joke. After all, jokes from students can relieve stress, improve student socialization, and develop the creative parts of the mind. These are all things that good teachers want to encourage. But a teacher’s first mission is to make sure you learn something. So if your jokes disrupt the lessons and get in the way of that goal, your teacher will try to stop to you.

Pranksters, What’s Your Point?

Your intentions, good or bad, make a difference. An experienced teacher can usually spot the difference between friendly banter and mean-spirited humor. In other words, teachers are more likely to let you slide if you’re not trying to hurt anything. So what is your own goal for your jokes and pranks? It should be to give everyone a laugh and, maybe, show off how clever you are. If you want to put down other students, humiliate your teacher, or trip up today’s lesson, change your mission. Otherwise, you are better off skipping the jokes all together (and possibly finding yourself a good therapist.)

Besides, considerate jokes are usually funnier (at least in schools, anyway.) A lot of kids feel stress, or guilt from mean jokes. Even kids who laugh along often feel conflicted when others are being hassled. Don’t be mean and you’ll amuse more of the people that you’re trying to impress.

Pardon the Interruption.

Making jokes on your own time (lunch, recess, bus rides, etc.) should never be a problem. But, let’s say you’re in class. Can you jump in without landing in trouble? Maybe, maybe not, but here are a few tips that could improve your odds:

First, don’t wear out your welcome. In my experience, people can usually handle two or three interruptions before taking it seriously. If you or someone else has already interrupted a class, you may have used up your joke quota. If you think it’s safe, keep the interruptions short. A fast joke is less likely to get you in trouble than a long, drawn out one. And be sure to pace your jokes. Five jokes spaced out over two hours is less annoying than five jokes back to back.

While you’re at it, try to stay on topic. Jokes about today’s lesson prove that you can pay attention, while you’re having fun. And your jokes might help other students remember the lessons and do better on tests. That would make you a hit with the students and teachers.

Finally, and perhaps, most importantly of all, work on your timing. Good comedians say that timing is the most important part of humor. This is doubly true in schools. Avoid interrupting the most important parts of instructions or the key moments in discussions.

Taking Responsibility

Sometimes, no matter how careful or well meaning you are, someone may still get mad at your jokes. If this happens out in the real world, you can sometimes tell people to lighten up. But school rules are different. If someone in charge tells you off for clowning around, you say, “Sorry, it won’t happen again.” And then, unfortunately, you have to mean it. Lie low for the rest of class, maybe the rest of the day, to prove that you’re serious. And don’t drag out your apology. A long, disruptive apology is often worse than whatever you’re apologizing for.

Heck is Other People

One of the worst things that can happen to you is having someone else take your joke too far. You might make a short, tasteful joke, only to have some other students add their own mean, disruptive comments on top of yours. Then you all end up looking like jerks. And if you try to explain that these other kids aren’t a part of your act, your teacher will think that you’re causing a disruption and the other kids will think you’re a traitor. The best thing to do is to keep quiet until things settle down. You can explain yourself to your friends and teachers after class. If anyone is still mad at you, you have to accept that. After all, the disruption may not have been your fault, but it was a result of your actions.


If you’re ever stuck, remember these basic rules of school humor: Don’t be disrespectful and try to keep it short. Stick to this, and maybe you’ll have your fun without serving any time in detention.

Next time, we’ll explore the kinds of jokes people play and which ones work. Until then, please prank responsibly.