Corrected: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the location of the show. It took place at State College of Florida Bradenton.
“The pandemic made us brave,” said Briana Richardson, a middle school teacher from Mississippi.
When her principal caught her ordering food from DoorDash during class, Richardson’s first thought was: “I’m so scared right now. I’m going to get fired.”
“But then I was like, you know what, y’all ain’t got no teachers, what y’all going to do?”
Richardson’s take on the teaching shortage got an audience filled with tired, stressed, desperately-in-need of a laugh teachers roaring. Teachers looked at each other like Richardson had just granted them an epiphany.
Educators from all grade levels were gathered here in a packed auditorium at State College of Florida Bradenton for a unique teacher-led touring comedy show. And the sign at the ticket desk said it all: THIS. IS. SELF. CARE.
As the teacher-performers reminded their audience, finding unity in belly laughs may be the best kind of professional development—even if it is unpaid and after hours.
The show, which began on March 12, is the creation of Bored Teachers, an online platform full of memes, videos, and more about the trials and tribulations of the teaching profession by current and former teachers. The group’s first spring break comedy tour has stops across Florida and later throughout the Northeast.
The auditorium seats about 830, but on Monday it was packed with teachers from all grade levels.
“Where do you want to sit?” an audience member was overhead asking another.
“Girl, I’m just here for a good time” said her companion.
As teacher stress levels reach all-time highs, the tour offers teachers an opportunity to come together and laugh so hard they cry as they realize they’re not alone in facing challenges on the job, especially after the last two and more years of pandemic teaching, said James Tarantino, a former teacher and one of the founders of Bored Teachers.
The demand online from teachers across the country has already led to plans for a summer cross-country tour.
“I think the response just tells you how much teachers need this time together to laugh,” said Jess Smith, a former 3rd, 5th, and 6th grade teacher from New Hampshire who now works full time with Bored Teachers and is one of the comedians on tour.
At the March 14 show here, Smith was joined by current and former teachers on stage cracking jokes that covered cringe-worthy parent-teacher conferences, stress-inducing classroom observations by administrators, chaotic middle school students, teacher shortages, and more.
As performer and host K.C. Mack, a special education teacher from Texas, put it: “This school year…we just need prayer.”
Throughout the sets, teachers, their spouses, and general audience members alike would blurt out refrains such as “that’s me,” or “amen” and “yes” as they connected with the comedic personal anecdotes.
‘You got a pulse?’
Richardson, also known online as Honest Teacher Vibes, continued her monologue about teacher shortages.
“Y’all got substitute teachers?” she asked the crowd. A loud chorus replied “No!”
“I know beggars can’t be choosers,” she said, “but some of these people ain’t got no place substitute teaching. They’ll just pull people off the street like, hey, you got a pulse? OK, you’re good.”
Smith shared an anecdote of when she taught middle school and told her class she was pregnant. After her announcement, she returned to her desk and a student came up to her. She thought he was going to congratulate her. Instead, he whispered conspiratorially: “I know what you did.”
Teachers covered their faces in second-hand embarrassment.
Amid the punchlines (and audience dance-offs), the comedians addressed stressors that each new school year brings, such as shifting rules made particularly complicated in the last few years. But the focus would quickly return to high-energy laughter.
“Remember when they tried to arm us? They were trying to give teachers guns? I’m not anti-gun, but I’ll tell you right now I’m anti-coworker,” he said. “There are people I worked with I wouldn’t trust with a stapler.”
Hilariously, or perhaps distressingly, audience members pointed at one another knowingly.
Audrey Benitez, a middle school teacher in attendance, said it was good to get to laugh during spring break. She hopes more teachers across the country get to share in the experience.
As a group of teachers gathered outside, one said “That was fun. It was less raunchy than I expected.”
Mary Singleton, a pre-K teacher in the audience, called it a well-deserved break.
“It needs to be eight hours long like a real PD session,” she said.
A version of this article appeared in the March 30, 2022 edition of Education Week as Need a Laugh? These ‘Bored Teachers’ Are Hilarious