Pop QuizSecondary Education

Pop Quiz – Not with a Bang but a Whimper

Oh dear. Prank day.


Today was the last formal school day for our senior year. They have various exams to sit over the next month and they have their prom after the exams, but today was their final timetabled day. They’re a nice group of students and my form class (the UK name for homeroom) are from this year. Our school system means that I’ve had this particular form class every morning of every year since they started school six years ago, so I’m quite personally invested in these particular pupils.


The seniors’ last day is, as I’m sure is the case in many other schools, somewhat famous for the pranks that the outgoing year try to pull before they leave. In our school, the administrators do their best to schedule various activities to keep the seniors busy and to deny them the opportunity to do anything too extreme. Anyway, most of the time the students’ grand plans don’t amount to very much. Over the last few years there have been a few genuinely clever and amusing pranks, such as when some pupils posted the head teacher’s car on the UK equivalent of Craigslist for a super-cheap price, along with the school’s phone number. Or the time two years ago when some enterprising students got hold of fifteen rape alarms and fifteen helium balloons and combined them to great effect in the high-ceilinged dining hall. Most of the time, however, nothing much happens.


Today was different. All the whispered secretive talk of epic schemes went out of the window and we ended up with an increasingly raucous group of teenagers running around with eggs and juice-filled water guns. They pelted the dining hall with eggs to the extent that there was nearly a stampede as the younger pupils tried to leave. Several of the large, expensive TV screens that are in the hall to act as information boards were damaged. Worse, a second group of students covered several of the staircases in the building with washing up liquid, thereby making them treacherously and dangerously slippery. We have five very heavily pregnant teachers in the school at the moment, not to mention several pupils with mobility issues. Finally, just to seal the whole clichéd deal,   a variety of stink bombs were let off in the corridors.


Staff (and many of the pupils) were furious. What should have been a good-natured, emotional and possibly amusing day descended into mob-ruled nastiness. When I left at the end of the day the cleaning crews were still up ladders in the dining hall, scraping egg residue off the walls and screens. One senior pupil was actually excluded from school on their last day for swearing aggressively in the face of one of the teachers who tried to get them to stop throwing the eggs.


It’s left a bitter taste in the mouth. As much as I know that it was only one day out of six years, I feel like my memories of this year group will be tainted by their actions on their final day. Quite a few staff are already talking about pulling out from attending prom because of today’s events.


Do you have any experience of senior pranks? Perhaps as a member of staff on the receiving end, or as a prankster?


Have you ever seen or heard about a really clever and effective prank? Or maybe a really mean or vindictive one?


The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).

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Alasdair is a high school English teacher in Scotland. He's a passionate skeptic and science fan, which is why he runs a discussion club for young skeptics in his school. He loves space and astronomy more than pretty much anything and is studying for a physics degree in his spare time in order to become qualified to teach science.

He lives with a cat made of distilled hatred and spikes.

1 Comment

  1. April 27, 2014 at 9:54 pm —

    That sounds really frustrating, and upsetting. I think one thing we should work on is explaining the differences in styles of pranks. Make it clear that certain pranks are better than others. Instead of just misbehaving for the sake of misbehaving, encourage the students to come up with something unique and brilliant, like the Craigslisting of the car, or the MIT hacks. Then if students feel the need to do things which are destructive as well as disruptive, punish them far more severely.

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