A Northwood High School student’s podcast recounting an incident last year in which a classmate was arrested for allegedly bringing a gun to class has won a national competition hosted by NPR.
In the eight-minute podcast, titled “Nervous Laughter,” Teagan Nam explores the role of humor in dealing with traumatic events, like the one at the Silver Spring school last year.
NPR announced this week that the show was chosen from hundreds of submissions by students in grades five through 12 as part of its Student Podcast Challenge.
“The Northwood community is extremely proud of Teagan’s professional and exceptional work in the podcast challenge,” Principal Jonathan Garrick wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat. “What Teagan has accomplished in his fantastic work is a study of the human response to difficult situations and how humor can be a vital part of healing a community.”
The name of the podcast comes from the idea that people, especially teenagers, can use humor as a shield to show how they really feel – scared, confused, worried – which can make them more vulnerable. , Nam told NPR.
In it, Nam describes the day’s events: An anonymous tip reports that a student may have brought a gun and ammunition to school. The school entered an hour-long shelter-in-place before the student was arrested and eventually expelled.
Nam interviewed classmates, who recounted the confusion of not knowing what was going on and the fear of seeing armed officers on school grounds.
“Back then, locked in by this shelter in place and the locked doors and the shuttered windows and the sirens, we had no way of knowing what stat we would become, let alone how to deal with this threat,” Nam says in the podcast.
While the school was still sheltered in place, Nam turned to jokes to ease the stress of the situation, according to NPR.
And their classmates too, who posted memes and jokes on Instagram. The jokes continued for weeks, Nam told NPR, and they weren’t meant to undermine the seriousness of the incident. They just provided release for the students, they said.
The podcast features students who say in interviews that the jokes were disrespectful or a sign that people weren’t taking the situation seriously.
Nam is then of the opinion that humor is a “temporary solution” to stress.
Nam ends the show by saying, “Teenagers are notoriously afraid of vulnerability, of showing our real fears, our anxieties, the care we have for communities. When joking about tragedy, laughter is a shield against something much more painful and much more honest and real.
“Maybe it’s worth the risk, all of us to lower our shields, open our eyes, drop our plastic smiles and speak the truth.”
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at [email protected]