promote a better atmosphere in schools to further a lasting positive relationship between teachers and students.
The medical clowning concept has been customized for the school system to provide another pillar in the educational support system, next to school social work and school psychology. The idea is to bring the positive impact that clowns have in clinics to the students at school.
Picture left: Francis Tief; Picture middle: True!moments; Picture Right: S.Schlecht/ Kreiszeitung BB
Who are we?
True!moments gUG (haftungsbeschränkt) was founded in February 2019 by Ines Rosner (arts) and Andrea Geser-Novotny (project management). The mission of true!moments is to make it possible for all children and youths to have happy schooldays.
Both founders worked in the field of social work for many years. Ines Rosner has an education as a social worker, drama coach (Theaterpädagogin (BUT)), medical clown and school clown. Andrea Geser-Novotny also has an education in social work and several years of experience in project management.
They created a concept to start school clowns in Germany and developed a curriculum to educate other clowns, teachers, and social workers to become school clowns. The first course for this further education started in January 2021.
What were concerns / triggers / difficulties that made you start this?
In 2019 a health insurance company released a study that showed the problems and difficulties school kids have. The results showed that every fourth kid shows some kind of psychological abnormality such as bullying, social pressure, and problems at home to mention a few. As social workers they saw firsthand how trying everyday school life could be.
Research in the field of humor and from medical clowning shows that clowning and humor can help kids improve their mood and increase their resilience.
Pressure to perform and have good grades become more and more a focus. Social differences show a constantly rising and widening gap between who can and cannot make it. During the pandemic and the lockdowns these gaps increased, and problems arose (more violence, financial problems, overwhelmed parents and kids, etc.).
Teachers face more difficulties due to a wide range of students from all backgrounds. More and more problems show up in school as the school days are longer. Social issues that were taken care of in the family a few years ago now interrupt the school day.
These challenges add to the actual tasks for teachers which is to provide the students with knowledge. Many different needs come together and make it more and more difficult to provide each child with the necessary attention. Tensions arise and hinder a healthy atmosphere for learning and studying.
First three pictures: true!moments; Picture right: T. Ceska
What does a clown do?
The school clown comes to school regularly. Everyone knows what day to expect the clown. They look forward to it and can build a lasting relationship.
The first stop for the clown each visit is the principal’s office to see if there were any incidents or if there is a special situation that needs a special friend.
The clown then proceeds to walk around the school, knocks on doors and sees and feels where his/her attention is needed. Sometimes a simple little smile (an „I see you“) is enough to make someone’s day. Sometimes it takes more time and attention. Oftentimes it is necessary to get more help than the clown can provide. The clown then accompanies the kids or gives them advice as to where they can get the help and support they need. While talking and playing, the kids find new ways to handle a situation and even find their own solutions. The clown is a friend that sees the kids, listens to them and is not another adult that knows things better.
All clowns have an education in a social field and are professional clowns.
The clown has a different and special way to handle problems and deal with mistakes. For children and youths that are in a rut or feel weak, it is therapeutic and extremely helpful to handle the problems with a certain simplicity and humor.
Topics that came up with the clown one on one:
The clown acts emotional, talks about taboos, shows that showing feelings is ok, brings back the simplicity, supports the kids, and demonstrates that it´s ok to make mistakes. Failure is not defining. The clown helps kids to accept the problem and find a way to help themselves. The children and youths are not alone in this process, they don´t have to feel ashamed, they have a friend.
It is very important to mention that there is a close collaboration with school social workers, teachers, and the principal’s office to provide the kids with the necessary help.
When the clown visits the classrooms, it can benefit the kids that have not yet understood a concept learned as they can use their own words to explain it to the clown. The clown has no knowledge of anything and needs the kids to be very creative explaining the task at hand. This way they think about the material, laugh, and enjoy a topic that they otherwise would maybe quickly forget. When there is exclusion or bullying, the clown offers being a target so the kids have a common target and are not going against one of their own.
A good laugh in the classroom brings fresh air and gives them new motivation and a positive atmosphere to continue their day.
The clown also visits the teacher’s lounge to bring a little ease into their everyday life by showing the students how important and valuable teachers are (i.e. yelling out a big thank you over the hallway).
How can a school clown change things?
The school clown is part of everyday school life. He/she is a friend to the kids, approaching them at eyelevel, not as an adult.
The school clown works inclusive, handicaps are no issue, language or cultural differences do not matter. The clown is open-minded, neutral, curious, unintentional, and carefree.
The school clown is completely unbiased and open. He/she playfully supports everyone emotionally and helps individuals to trust their instincts while finding their own solutions. There is never a quid pro quo when it comes to the time and support given.
Another benefit for the teachers is that the clown can sense tension and „see” situations that may become an issue. He/she can work towards a solution and point out where to keep a watchful eye. Tensions that may otherwise have been overlooked or discovered at a much later point in time.
Humor, and the positive atmosphere it brings, improves motivation. Laughing together makes people happy, activates breathing and has an overall good impact on health.
For principals and the school officials, it´s beneficial to have a school clown. Any tensions or atmospheric troubles that arise can get resolved early before causing too much agony.
Close cooperation is vital for the success of the project.
Picture left: true!moments, Pictures middle and right: S.Schlecht, Kreiszeitung BB
What is the benefit for the kids / teachers / principals?
Children and youths have a reliable friend:
This new friend has a higher education in a social or educational field as well as being a professional clown all while being on eyelevel and understanding kids where they stand. The school clown adjusts to any age group and any issue and is very flexible with his/her reactions. The school clown helps those who have difficulties facing challenges to get the help and support they need, not as an adult but as a friend.
Humor or laughter increases social competencies. The school clown acts with all his/her repertoire to bring back the joy of learning.
Topics that arise in school such as bullying, violence, racism are not a taboo for the clown. He/she discusses such topics with the kids, open, upfront and on their level. The kids get included in discussions that might get uncomfortable. The clown encourages kids to find their own way and to work out their solutions in a different and creative way that kids understand and can relate to.
What are previous experiences?
There are active school clowns in two schools now, grades 1 through 10. The first school to experience the school has had a full school year with the project. The principal is incredibly happy and said that everyone at the school has benefitted from having a school clown. Students have a special friend that challenges them to think for themselves. Teachers have another partner that can support when it comes to difficult topics or taboos. The visits are reliable and easily planned due to the regularity. The constant exchange with teachers, the principal, and school social worker makes it easy to provide kids with the help they need.
Taken and translated from the principals feedback::
„What did we gain by having a clown?
We are well on the way to create a lasting impact to provide a school where
What does the evaluation process look like?
Teachers and principals are regularly (2 – 3 times during one school year) provided with questionnaires to assure the quality of the project. Children and youths are also included in this feedback process.
The focus in the line of questioning is to see if the process works, if the setting works for everyone involved, what needs to be changed / adjusted, etc. We are constantly trying to evolve the project and make sure it matches (or exceeds) expectations.
Universities have been interested in the project and its developments. One graduate student wrote her final paper (thesis) on the impact of school clowns in cultural education in schools („„Make school a happy place!“ Clowns in Schulen und ihr Potenzial für Kulturelle Bildung“).
Another graduate student wrote about the acceptance of this new kind of learning in schools („Lachen im Schulalltag - eine Studie zur Akzeptanz von Schulclowns an einer Gemeinschaftsschule“).
We are positive that there will be more students in the future who will look at our project scientifically and research the value and impact it has on the school system and everyday school life.
Together we will reach our goal to make school a happy place for every student, no matter what background, culture, handicap etc. Where students develop their own opinion and strategies to face challenges. Together we will make it possible to cultivate a new and open society.
Contact us with any questions. Happy to hear from you.