Being present: Clowns in a high school
Updated: Jan 13
The seventh graders go wild when they see us, a small crew of educational clowns, in their quad space. The 8th and 9th graders squeal, ask for high-fives or handshakes, or sometimes invite us to their classrooms. The 10th, 11th and 12th graders think we’re hilarious, they beckon us into their classrooms, and join us in our silly games.
All of these high school kids want us to stay in their midst. They like us. They like the color we add to their school day.
The feelings are mutual.
I love being in their midst. It is a rush. An adrenaline high. After just a few hours in a school, I am bursting with feelings of calmness, excitement, and happiness.
Every Sunday, I am an educational clown.
Educational clowning is a relatively new concept. It brings therapeutic clowns into a school setting to help students and teachers relieve stress.
My fellow clowns and I dress up in polka dots and stripes or bright clothing. We put on a red nose. We do our hair up in a ridiculous style.
Then we set out for the hallways, stairways, classrooms, teachers’ rooms, courtyards and other areas of a school.
We are there to lighten up the school day. To give a smile. To get a smile.
We don’t pretend to be anyone or anything. We just are.
We don’t come with a scripted way of how we’ll act. We just do.
We come to have fun. We come to see the humor in what life offers.
We react to situations and then react to whatever situation was created based on our reactions and those of others.
We look to the students as the smart ones for every situation. They know where to go. They know how to get from Point A to Point B. They know what they’re supposed to do when it is recess or when class is back in session.
We know that we know nothing.
Moshe Cohen, of Clowns without Borders, came to join us for a morning at an Israeli high school. He brought colorful plastic bags for each of us.
Of course, they didn’t stay as bags for long.
We turned them into flowers, superhero capes, and hide-and-seek curtains. We also used these bags as imaginary umbrellas and cellular phones.
We kicked off our morning walk around the school by following Moshe, mirroring his gait and tones, and walking behind him in single file. We shushed no one in particular and hummed our way up staircases and down hallways. We sprinkled students and teachers with confetti and good cheer.
One young woman invited us to come celebrate her birthday with her. We sang Happy Birthday, danced and celebrated. She beamed.
Our single file walkabout wasn’t just a game of follow-the-leader. We weaved together humor, improvisation, listening, hearing, absurdity and being aware.
Even after Moshe took to the sidelines (to watch us in action), our crew crisscrossed the school as an impressive force of silliness.
We helped mold happy teenagers (even if just for one day).
And that is why we come to the high school in the first place.
I clowned in schools from 2018-2019. I now give talks and blog about this extraordinary experience.