NEWS

April Fool’s Day pranks, both past and present

Life is obviously imitating art when schoolchildren get up on their desks, sing and dance. And that is what happened when a classic Greek comedy sowed mischief in a classroom one day. Starting as an April Fool’s Day joke, a minor revolt became the status quo during the math lesson. «Our teacher was permanently not with it. Nobody paid attention to her, nobody listened to her. And that was the time that «To Xylo Vgike apo ton Paradeiso» (Punishment Was from Paradise) was playing at the cinemas, which gave us the idea of creating a party atmosphere during the lesson. We grabbed each other’s hands, all the girls, formed a circle, sang and danced. We were perfectly safe, as the teacher was neither in a position to impose order nor to punish us,» Kyriaki Topalidou, now a teacher herself, recalls. Bold practical jokers and unruly students existed both 30 and 40 years before today. But mischief-makers planned pranks more carefully in the past in order to avoid punishment. Thus nobody ever found out who was guilty of the hoax phone call on April Fool’s Day 1969, when the rumor went round that a renowned private school in Thessaloniki was on fire. «The school principal appeared, roused from sleep, wearing his trousers over his pajamas. Fuming at the ‘poor taste’ of the joke, he moved heaven and earth to have those responsible caught. «Interrogations by the disciplinary council lasted over a month, but to no avail,» said Constantinos Matesis, who kept his mouth shut on the identity of the culprit on that far-off April day. Today, practical jokes are carried out far more openly, almost without fear, since discipline is much laxer. «I remember one April Fool’s Day, when some fellow-pupils in the second class of senior high drove the teacher right out of the classroom. They thought her hysterical because she would yell and cry at the least provocation. Well, she fled sobbing from the classroom, and my fellow-pupils were rewarded with three days’ suspension,» related Maria Samarra, 25. How does a teacher today, with modern attitudes toward education, view such practical joking? «When they don’t hurt anyone, I enjoy them myself. Two years ago, I found an empty classroom. There was only one pupil there, who told me that all the others had gone on a march and that it was better for him if we had a one-to-one session. Of course, I believed him. Ten minutes later, the kids appeared and we laughed about it for an hour,» said teacher Stella Sakopoulou.