Pepper spray, educational clowning and a sea of cell phones
My school clowning took me to a high school in a low socioeconomic neighborhood of a central city in Israel. The students, we had been told, came from broken homes, single-parent homes and from homes struggling to make ends meet.
The youth that greeted us – five newly-minted therapeutic clowns, still learning the ropes of clown care – were just as curious about us as we were about them.
Some welcomed us to follow them into their classes, to meet their friends, to open up to us about who they were. Others shied away from our silly get-ups, but always kept an eye on us because curiosity is difficult to overcome.
Whoa! So many cell phones! At breaks, the classrooms empty out and everyone grabs their phones. For such a big school, the relative quiet that reigned during recess breaks was astonishing. So many students, nearly no one talking to one another. Virtually everyone staring at a screen – watching shows, catching up on Whatsapp, playing Fortnite or Clash Royale. The kids who had no one to sit with – also staring at screens. The kids who couldn’t afford phones – walking around with dummy phones (two students told me they had dummy phones to make it look like they had phones). Kids who are from supposedly low-income homes with top of the line cell phones. Status symbols.
Overall, the students were very sweet and eager to welcome these weirdo strangers with a red nose into their school. The first two hours at the school flew by – there were so many hallways and places to go. I went into six classrooms, met teachers and students. I got lost all the time but simply had to ask a student for directions and was pointed in the right direction or, most times, escorted to wherever it is I was going. All was good. Until I met a few students who looked like they were choking. They pointed to one of the buildings, so I walked over with another clown. As we got closer, we started to choke too. Pepper spray. We found a teacher. She said it happens frequently. No one was hurt. A student simply didn’t want to learn, so he pepper sprayed the classroom.
An experience for sure.
I look forward to my next educational clowning adventure next week.