The Kids: Ciara
Ciara hesitates for a few seconds before deciding to stop me and another clown-in-training.
“What are you doing here?” she asks. She has seen us around, she says, and wants to know why there are suddenly seven adults dressed up as clowns roaming around her school.
“We’re educational clowns,” I answer. “This is a school. So, we came here to learn.”
My answer seems to hook her in. She squares herself in front of us.
“But what are you doing here?” she asks again. “Why are you here?”
It is a valid question. Most high school students do not have educational clowns at their schools. (In my opinion, they should, but that’s another matter.)
We’re at Ciara’s school because the principal agreed to take part in a new therapeutic clown care venture that aims to relieve stress and anxiety in the education arena.
Our answers to Ciara are simple, as a clown’s answers usually are. My clown partner and I do not explain the theoretical reasons for our being there.
We leave it at the fact that we’re learning to be clowns and thus “coming to a school makes sense.”
Then it is our turn to ask questions.
“What are you doing here?” we ask her. We’re standing on a path that connects the high school and middle school buildings in a big school complex. “What are you studying?”
She seems somewhat hesitant when she answers, “psychology.”
My partner clown and I gush with admiration. We flood her with compliments about how talented she must be, how much smarter she is than two adults learning to be clowns, how clever she must be, etc.
Like in other areas of therapeutic clowning, this offering of admiration is key.
We, clowns, are in our yes-mode. We build upon each compliment we offer. “Yes, Ciara, you’re smart and awesome.” “You’re smart, awesome and incredible.”
Ciara hugs a book and notebook to her chest while we go on and on about her amazing abilities. Her straight black hair is tied back in a low ponytail, a style shared by other girls in the school.
At first she smiles at our banter. But after three or four compliments she tries to stop us to clarify that we seem to have misunderstood her.
“I’m not that smart,” she says. “I’m just a high school student.”
We do not accept her rebuttal. Ciara waves her hand to convey a 'no.' She repeatedly tries to refute our praises but we have a neverending supply of compliments.
Then the end-of-recess bell rings. She tells us that she must get to class.
We wish her good luck and she says her goodbye and walks off.
My clown partner and I begin to discuss how difficult it was for her to accept our compliments. How Ciara kept trying to counteract what we said. How it seems to us that she doesn’t hear enough positive reinforcement.
Not two minutes go by and Ciara is back standing beside us. She touches my arm to get my attention, and says, “I want to clarify that I’m really not smart. You’re wrong that you think I am.”
So, we answer in the best educational clown way that we know. “In our minds, you are smart,” we tell her. “From our point of view, you’re way smarter than we are and we think you’re amazing.”
She shakes her head and joins the throng of kids returning to their classrooms.
Thank you for reading my blog series, "The Kids: Educational Clowning Series." I write these blogs to give a snapshot of the middle school and high school students I meet as an educational clown. The stories are real; the names and locations have been left out. It doesn't matter who each person is, specifically. These kids are the next generation and I feel we should know their collective stories.
Also in this series: Barb, the school drug dealer