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Senior Pranks Improve School Culture

Last week, a senior at a nearby high school put his school up for sale on Twitter. He listed his principal’s phone number for contact information. Interestingly, he received a detention in exchange for over a hundred likes and re-tweets. In more troubling news, seniors have glued door locks throughout school buildings and placed dead fish in vending machines. Senior pranks like these are not ethical and, it’s true, send the wrong message. It’s never okay to vandalize property or reveal someone’s personal information on social media for the sake of a senior prank.

Welcome to ELA Today, a monthly chat where the authors of Reading and Writing Haven and Language Arts Classroom cover different ways of approaching common decisions in the ELA classroom.

Senior Pranks: The Debate

Some people are staunchly opposed to senior pranks, arguing they are disruptive to the learning environment, that they encourage older students to model poor behavior for younger students, and that they are a waste of valuable learning time. All of these points have merit, but students can plan and actualize senior pranks tastefully. When approached carefully, senior pranks can build community and improve school culture.

Students enjoy traditions. Homecoming, class awards, lock-ins, spirit days, field trips – senior pranks fit right in with this list. They are some of the elements that make school feel more like a community. Plus, teenagers enjoy coming up with clever ways to surprise people, and seniors, especially, want to be remembered. Many of them view senior pranks as one more way they can leave a legacy.  Ultimately, senior pranks improve school culture because they provide students with the opportunity to participate in traditions, to work in teams, to celebrate twelve years of hard work, and to share memorable experiences.

Senior pranks can help to build and maintain positive and enjoyable school culture. #seniorpranks #schoolculture

Senior Pranks: What’s Cool and What’s Not

Some senior pranks can improve school culture without disrespecting school property and educators. Consider…

  • For one, cell phones ringing obnoxiously during testing or throughout an entire day is not okay. But, planning a simultaneous alarm in every senior locker to beep at exactly the same time is humorous.
  • Asking police officers to arrest an administrator is over-the-top. Yet, filling the principal’s office with balloons or covering his/her desk with a bunch of candy is sweet.
  • Filling the school swimming pool with Jell-O is not cool. It results in extra work for maintenance and possible damage to school property. But, if all seniors brought their (friendly) dogs to school, it could be fun.
  • Covering the hallway floor with water or shreds of paper can be dangerous. However, covering the stairwell with sleeping seniors in their PJs and blankets is relatively innocent.
  • Putting astroturf in the hallway along with branches, plants, beach chairs, blaring music, and working fountains is ridiculous. To the contrary, building a jungle gym and putting it in the middle of the lunchroom but later donating it to a local school in need is honorable.

You get the point. Not all senior pranks are created equal. Some help to build community while others tear it down.

Senior Pranks Impact Everyone

Younger students – they often look forward to their opportunity to plan a senior prank, providing them with one more incentive to stick around and to collaborate with peers. Everyone wants to be congratulated by the police department for the honor of the best senior prank.

Seniors – they like talking with their teachers about senior prank ideas. Often, they want to hear about pranks from the past, and they want teachers’ ideas about pranks for the future. Having these stories to share is one more way to bond with students.

Teachers – we are divided. Many of us enjoy senior pranks and find them humorous or exciting. Some of us are annoyed and feel disrespected.

I would never say that learning time at the end of the year is not important.  Yet, May is the perfect time for students to release some of their energy, nerves, excitement, and confusion about the future by channeling it into a team building, harmless senior prank. Learning and pranking – I think we can have both.

Sure, some seniors take their pranks too far. These opportunities are perfect doorways for parents, teachers, and administrators to have one more conversation with students about how their decisions impact other people. Their actions have a real-world impact.

Perhaps you have a funny senior prank story you’d like to share or an example of a senior prank that crosses the line. Tell us about it in the comments. Let’s continue the conversation!

This topic is always hotly debated. If you think senior pranks are a waste of time, you’re not alone. Language Arts Classroom has you covered.

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