“Leepa and Oshi are coming!!!!” one pupil shouted from the front gate of an elementary school.
Within seconds, a gaggle of pupils from first through sixth grades crowded the gate chanting a welcoming cheer for us, educational clowns.
“Go straight. Turn to the left. Come to us. No… go straight. Turn to the right. Now straight. Come to us.”
The excitement rose and rose. So, we – Leepa and Oshi – slowed down our walk towards the gate. The anticipation only grew.
A teacher up on the steps took out her mobile phone to take photos of the scene as it unfolded.
Upon entering the school complex, we were swarmed. This was our second visit to the school and the kids were thrilled to see us.
I’m Oshi. My co-clown and teacher is Leepa.
We’re the first two educational clowns in an elementary school setting.
Educational, or therapeutic, clowning offers people the chance to feel relevant and seen.
Whereas at high schools the students (for the most part) respect the concept of personal space, the elementary school kids are all about invading this space.
There are the confident kids who like to take charge, pull us in all directions, and tell us where to go.
There are the less socially accepted kids who immediately magnetize towards us, seeing our open-arm friendliness as a much-needed invitation to hang with the gang.
There are the mischievous kids who push or pull us and try to touch our red noses or take things from our costumes.
There are the affectionate kids who want to hold our hands, hug us and never let us go.
And there are the indifferent kids, who keep a distant eye on us or prefer that we don’t look at them at all. But we see them.
What do we do at the school?
We take part in recess.
When there’s been a fight, a teacher may ask us to step in and see if we can help resolve it.
We help kids who may not have with whom to play find a playmate.
We interact with the kids and offer all sorts of absurdity.
One boy told me that my gravity-defying ponytail was ugly.
So, I thanked him for telling me what it was called, ‘ugly.’
He and the other kids, through fits of laughter, tried to explain to me that it was not a compliment but rather an insult. I then mashed up the way he said, ‘ugly’, and a new round of giggles ensued.
When the kids ask us what we’re doing in the school setting, we let them give the answers as well. They seem to have many reasons why we’re there: to have fun, to make them laugh, to make the school day more fun, to get them to smile, etc. All the answers are correct.
After all, the significance an educational clown in an elementary school setting can have is being defined as the initiative expands.
From my first visits, I can definitely say that educational clowning brings a wave of joy and fun to the school day.