My laugh has been the source of a variety of comments over the years. In most cases, these comments have been positive. Having it referred to as a “cackle,” as is often the case, doesn’t sound very complimentary, though it has been known to make babies cry. I do know the fact that it can be heard from quite a distance has a positive impact on those around me. People will say, “I could hear you all the way to my room,” or “you have such a great laugh,” or “Your laugh makes me laugh.” There is no doubt that laughter is contagious, so it is good to know that I can brighten someone’s day once in a while with my laughter.
The opposite is also true, of course. If I am stressed or have an issue on my mind, it shows on my face. My job lends itself to this on a fairly regular basis. It is disconcerting to find out the impact this has on people. A few years ago, one of our crossing guards, someone who I enjoyed talking to and miss now that he is gone, said to the secretary that I seem like a very serious fellow, even perhaps kind of grumpy. She had to tell him about my love of laughter, but I was sad to hear that this was not how I was appearing to those who saw me at school. Staff members have also made comments about how serious and preoccupied I can look. I fear that this may make me appear unapproachable, particularly to parents. As principal I need, and desperately want, to be approachable.
So, I try to make a conscious effort to show this side more often. Obviously, a hearty laugh must be genuine, and there are many (probably daily) opportunities to laugh. I also work at unknitting my brow. That can be consciously done, even at times when my head may be in a more sober space. It seems to be working. I have had comments about it is good to hear my laughter again—one person even saying it is good to have the old Roy back. Aah, that was good to hear.
While I do enjoy a good laugh with colleagues and other adults, one of my biggest sources of joy is the students. Most people involved in education will tell you that when you lose that, it is time to get out. I am happy to say that in spite of things that may weigh me down, students still bring me great joy. In fact, when my office starts to feel oppressive or my computer screen is just too familiar, I will go on what I call a little sabbatical and hang out with students. Sometimes this means classroom visits, sometimes it means going out for recess even if I am not on duty. And students make me laugh. It is fun to see the look on their faces when they say something that makes me burst out in laughter. It looks like a mixture of surprise and joy. Though it could be that my cackle scares them. Ah well, at least it hasn’t made any of them cry.
P.S. If you want to have a good laugh, come and ask me about what happened when I thought “LOL” meant something different.