Last fall when Kalamazoo Education Association President Heather Reid saw an ad announcing the Bored Teachers Comedy Tour was coming to town, she applied for a small MEA grant to hold a members event before the show.
Soon she heard staff in the local MEA office discussing the same idea, so they all joined forces and created a mega-event for members in districts from the entire region of Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Allegan counties, who also were allowed to bring non-members along to sample the fun of belonging.
The result was a hugely successful gathering of more than 250 educators at Hub Tavern and Grill across the street from the show’s venue, the historic downtown Kalamazoo State Theater. Sponsored by MESSA, the event featured refreshments and prize drawings.
“Everyone’s sort of exhausted and running in different directions, trying to get work done outside of school because they’re subbing for each other during school, so it’s going to be great to be able to just laugh,” Reid said as she sat enjoying the fun with a group of friends.
“It definitely makes the hard days lighter when we get to go and laugh about it,” agreed Tonya Colvin, a member librarian at Kalamazoo Central High School and former English teacher who said she’s been a fan of a few of the educator-comedians on TikTok for a couple of years.
The Bored Teachers 2023 “We Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Comedy Tour features a group of educators and former educators whose funny videos about the profession grew in popularity via social media during the pandemic. The performers rotate appearances on stage throughout the touring season.
They can find the humor in everything from bad professional development to playground duty and teacher gifts that mistake “your” for “you’re.” In fact, quips one popular comic from the show, KC Mack: “I can’t ever quit teaching, because I need the material!”
It only adds to the fun to have a large gathering of educators before the show, said Jacob Oaster, president of the Hopkins Education Association. “You see that MEA is a much bigger thing than just your own school or your own local. It’s cool to see people from all these different places.”
Despite its large size, the 90-minute pre-show event ran smoothly because the field staff tried some new tactics to eliminate long check-in lines. Entry badges and raffle tickets for those who registered were delivered to school buildings, and the check-in process was virtual.
“The badge drops at buildings led to a lot more talk about the event, because everyone saw them and wanted to join in,” said Morgan Jansen, the MEA Field Assistant in the Kalamazoo office who coordinated the planning effort.
“We were posting a lot on Facebook, and we’ve gotten so many thank yous and compliments,” Jansen said. “Everyone has just been so excited.”
Many participants cited their strong need to relax and laugh amid another standardized testing season, especially after the stresses of the past few years.
MEA member Caitlin Freer, a K-5 special education teacher in Kalamazoo, attended the show with a paraeducator who works in her classroom, Hayli Harley. Freer said she enjoyed being together with other educators before the show and looked forward to seeing everyone’s hard work acknowledged by the performers on stage.
“Having a sort of lighthearted moment thrown in here is a positive thing,” Freer said, “but even more than that it’s being seen and valued. It’s having a group like this – all of us here together – not being and feeling alone in the daily struggles that we’re going through.”