Pop QuizSecondary Education

Pop Quiz: They All Float Down Here

This week I might have accidentally made a pupil have a nervous breakdown.


It was near the end of a period with one of my younger classes and they had completed all of their work. We’d been reading a novel which features characters who play various pranks on each other and we’d had a bit of a discussion about good and bad pranks during the period. I decided that we could fill the last five minutes of the class by watching a couple of short online videos of people performing innocent but funny pranks on each other.


One of the videos featured someone in a clown costume who would jump out on their friends unexpectedly. It was pretty amusing in a juvenile way and the pupils seemed to like it.


Well, most of them did.


I was looking at my computer screen, in the process of closing the browser window, when I head the words that all teachers of teenagers have surely heard at some point. “Sir, [name redacted] is crying”.


“Gasping silently and hysterically” would probably have been more accurate. One young man in the class would appear to have had quite the clown phobia and my innocent little video reward had opened up a little personal portal to Hell for him. I’ve never seen a pupil cry like that; I seriously thought that he was going to pass out. I’ve had upset pupils in my classes, but it had never been my fault before. I felt so, so guilty.


The poor boy. I probably should have figured that some young people, especially those who might be in a fairly naive and innocent class like this one, may possibly have childlike fears and phobias. It didn’t cross my mind for a second that one of them might have been utterly, completely terrified by clowns.


After he’d calmed down a bit and headed home (it was the last period of the day), my own rather selfish fears set in. What if he was still as upset when he got home? What if his parents were concerned? What if he was up all night with nightmares? I had visions of being pulled into the Head Teacher’s office the next morning to explain why I’d emotionally scarred a nice young boy.


None of that happened, of course. I have no idea whether the boy was still upset at home that night but his parents didn’t complain and I didn’t have to have any awkward conversations. In fact, when I took the boy aside to apologise the next day he barely seemed bothered at all. He pretty much laughed it off.


Have you ever accidentally terrified a young person in one of you classes? Maybe you triggered a phobia like I did, or maybe you used a text that caused a reaction in someone. Perhaps your carefully planned lesson on Close-Ups Of Horrible Spider Faces didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Let us know! We promise not to laugh too much.


The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

Featured Image Credit: Wikipedia

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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. October 31, 2014 at 9:18 am —

    Thanks for the creepy clown picture Alasdair 🙁 I hate clowns they creep me out, which is ironic since I was thinking of going to clown college to be a juggler when I was younger. To answer your question, no I have never scared a young person (yet) but I have scared plenty of adults. Usually, when we talk about Near Earth Asteroids and how the Universe can wipe us all out in one single large gamma ray blast. That freaks some people out good believe it or not! They never think of themselves as possibly being a victim to the Universe because the Earth is not as indestructible as they thought. Oh yeah, and every semester during finals a few break out in tears but that is usually because they didn’t come to class and didn’t study.

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