So, what do I DO as an educational clown?
Updated: Feb 11
Puzzled looks, raised eyebrows, quizzical glances, and a smile. These are the reactions I get whenever I talk about my latest volunteering stint in educational clowning.
This clowning field, educational clowning, is still in its infancy. It is still being created in Israel. And, thanks to my teacher, Talia Safra, I’m part of this amazing adventure.
In short, educational clowning -- or, school clowning -- can be described as a stress reliever for students and teachers.
Therapeutic medical clowning has become an accepted and integrated component of adult and pediatric care in medical centers the world over. The newest clown care field to know about is educational clowning.
Think about school. Academic challenges and social demands, hormone raging youth and family pressures. This kind of environment often means that teenagers will deal with copious amounts of stress. For teenagers in a lower socioeconomic setting, that stress can be even greater.
So, that’s where we come in. “We” being a group of professional adults who want to give back to society and make a difference.
We, the therapeutic clowns, are not the same sort of clowns you’d see in a circus or at a kid’s party. We don’t wear wigs or make-up. We do wear regular clothes (but mismatched) and don red noses.
The people with whom I clown are computer programmers and theater directors, there’s an opera singer, a nurse, a makeup artist and a science researcher.
My fellow clowns inspire me. One day a week, they (we) leave our professional lives to bring cheer and idiocy to teenagers and adults who are overly serious, anxious and worried.
And while preconceived ideas may prompt questions on whether teenagers care enough to interact with us, the answer is a simple: Yes.
From my experience so far, too many of the kids at the schools we’ve visited are in need of being reminded that smiling is a good thing. That there is a reason to smile.
Even the toughest kids with the hardcore exteriors, those who upon first meeting us, ignore us or at least pretend to, tend to let down their guard and welcome the humor we offer.
What is it that we do?
We give handshakes and compliments. We offer friendliness. We induce smiles and cheer. There are whoops of amusement and a harmony of voices wherever we go in the schools.
Many of the teachers also delight in seeing us.
We add color to the hallways.
We look different. We speak differently. We break monotony.
We want you to make eye contact with us. We want to make eye contact with you.
We want to dole out kudos– we love telling students how smart they are, what good fashion sense they have, how they seem to know so much more than we do. We want to make friends and learn about the school, just like the students themselves.
We love ushering in the latecomers – as it means we get to say hello to an entire class and a teacher, too.
For me, seeing a smile, forming friendliness and creating a stage for mutual appreciativeness, is food for my soul.
So, it’s okay if you raise an eyebrow or give me that puzzled look when I talk about my educational clowning adventures.
Educational clowning may not be part of the daily conversation just yet. But it will be. This therapeutic clown care field is crucial and, I believe will one day show (in academic studies, as well), that it is truly beneficial to all involved.
I feel very lucky to be part of its early stages.
2020 Update: I clowned in schools from 2018-2019. I now give talks and blog about this extraordinary experience.