Practical jokers

Teachers explain the process of pranking colleagues or students


Michelle Chen and Ishaani Dayal

As History teacher Scott Victorine entered his classroom one morning, he noticed something odd on his Napoleon poster. And his Roosevelt poster. And behind his projector. And on his bookshelves and picture frames. Someone had decided to grace Victorine’s room with the presence of his long time friend and colleague, English teacher Jessica Kaufman, in the form of wallet sized staff photos hidden all around the room. 

“I never saw anybody put them up which was the crazy thing because I don’t know if it was happening during lectures, or it was when my back was turned, or if it was happening when I was talking to a student,” Victorine said. “But the students who were involved did an excellent job because I never once saw anybody close to it. It would just be there all of a sudden.”

Victorine eventually discovered the true culprit behind the mysterious photo appearances: Kaufman herself. She had inspired many of their shared World Core students to participate in the scheme to baffle her teaching partner. Victorine knew he had to strike back, but first he had to wait to put his own plan in motion.

“[After the prank], I made sure to put every picture back where it was in this room so nobody would suspect anything,” Victorine said. “They were never moved. But it was worth it. I had to wait a good six to eight weeks before I realized it was her, and then I had wanted to get her back, but I had to be patient with it.”

Finally, Victorine felt that it was time for his revenge. After color copying Kaufman’s photos, he recruited his teaching assistants to cut large poster letters, spelling out the word “BAE” — a word he knew Kaufman hated.

When the time was right, Victorine convinced the custodian to let him into Kaufman’s room, “BAE” poster in hand. He’d been waiting for this moment for the past few weeks. He hung the poster up, high on the wall where she would be able to see it, and left. 

Not even a day later, Kaufman called and admitted defeat — a swift conclusion to an entertaining exchange between friends. Victorine attributes the lightheartedness of his relationship with Kaufman to the years he has spent working with her.

“Aside from working together, we’re pretty good friends, and I think just to keep it fun we keep our teaching pretty light,” Victorine said. “We try to keep it interesting. So I think it was just for fun, she probably knew I needed to laugh.”

Junior Daanyal Raja, who found himself in the middle of their prank war as a student of both teachers, recalls the effect the pranks had on the classroom atmosphere.

History Teacher Scott Victorine holds up one of the many pictures of his colleague which were used in the prank.

“It definitely brightened the mood in the class,” Raja said. “I know you can’t exactly pull a prank every day, but it definitely helps transition into class. That’s what I really liked about it. And the fact that it was also [good] natured and there weren’t any bad intentions.”

Looking back, Raja reminisces on how he and his friends looked forward to finding Kaufman’s pictures around Victorine’s room. While not many students actively participated in helping Victorine or Kaufman follow through with their pranks, Raja remembers observing the prank war and still having fun along with his teachers. 

“My friends and I would look for [the pictures of Kaufman],” Raja said. “But he never recruited us. If usually we’d find one, [we’d] laugh about it, and sometimes he noticed what we were laughing about. And he’d look in that direction, and he’d see the picture. And then he’d remove the picture. But most of the time we tried to keep it subtle from what I remember.”

According to Raja, the unexpected pranks between teachers are a welcome change. Students become accustomed to the serious environments some teachers set in their classrooms, and are pleasantly caught off guard by the occasional break.

While Victorine and Kaufman kept their friendly feud between themselves, English and AVID teacher Lynn Rose involved her entire class in an April Fools practical joke. Taking advantage of a relaxed period with no scheduled tests or important assignments, she figured this prank would be a creative way to get students in both classes involved and having fun.

Encouraged  by one of her previous classes, Rose decided to play a prank on one of her other classes. With the help of her students, she put together a nonsensical, yet seemingly legitimate essay question for her following class to answer. While she doesn’t remember the exact question, she does remember the reactions of the students.

“They sat there for 10 minutes, just with this quizzical look on their faces, trying to make sense out of what the question was,” Rose said. “The responses didn’t make any sense, just like the prompt. They were trying to sound very academic, but it was clear they didn’t know what they were talking about, because they didn’t know what they were supposed to answer in the first place.”

Rose let her class squirm for a while before she finally revealed that it had been a joke all along. And even though some students were initially annoyed, she enjoyed the experience and saw it as a learning opportunity.

“I think it’s important for students to know that teachers can have fun, too,” Rose said. “We’re human like that. We like jokes. We like to laugh. It’s fun to work with them to plan harmless things like that.”

However, each teacher who played any sort of prank agrees that there are limitations that exist to ensure a prank doesn’t get out of hand to the point of being offensive or hurting someone’s feelings. Both Rose and Victorine were careful to stay within the what they considered the bounds of what makes a prank acceptable, and hold that same standard to any practical joke on or off campus.

“They shouldn’t be offensive or they shouldn’t be like you’re hurting someone or you’re making them that upset,” Victorine said. “It should be something you see and you take a moment and you laugh and you appreciate it … You don’t want to hurt someone, you don’t want to cause damage. You don’t want to make it super personal to where it would bother someone.”

Victorine believes pranks give students something to look forward to. While not being too distracting, they provide students a break from the normal school routine. He views pranks as a great way for both students and teachers to enjoy their school day, and a fun method to make teachers seem like regular people in the eyes of their students. 

“It lightens the mood and just breaks up the routine of everything being so serious or so academically rigid,” Victorine said. “And I think that you got to be able to laugh — you got to have fun.”