A Halloween Myth Exposed

You know the one I’m referring to.  The one that says that all teachers hate Halloween.  That if they could get away with calling in for a sub, they would.  Well, I’m here to debunk it.  Partially, that is.  There is some truth in the myth.  Truth:  some teachers dislike Halloween.  But it’s not because they are the Halloween-equivalent of the Scrooge character.  It’s not because they can’t abide fun and merriment and joy.  Then why do four out of five teachers surveyed say that Halloween is torture?  Because WE STILL HAVE TO TEACH!  Yes, there will be a parade and costumes and a party…and if you’re lucky, some edible treats.  BUT WE STILL HAVE TO TEACH!  The Core Standards don’t take a holiday.  The curriculum does not take a vacation.  But once you’ve unleashed the holiday mayhem, just try reeling the students back in.  Not.  Easy.

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So if your child’s teacher gets a little witchy when you mention Halloween, that’s why.  It’s a conflict.  Balancing Halloween fun with real teaching and learning.  All while keeping sane.

Now, I’m the one out of the five teachers surveyed who loves Halloween.  Always have.  Do I find the balancing act difficult?  Yes.  Do I sympathize with those teachers who would like another superstorm so that Halloween can be avoided?  Yes.  But I like  Halloween.  Sue me.  I like dressing up in a costume and parading around while hundreds of parents wave their cameras at me.  I like playing toss the bat and pin the wart on the witch and wrap the mummy.  And I sincerely miss the days when we could play Halloween bingo using real candy corn as game pieces.  But I know not all teachers are like me when it comes to Halloween.  So, while I’m enjoying the madness while trying to do it all on October 31, I’ll feel for my colleagues.  I’ll return their weary smiles at the end of the day, and I won’t tell them that I’m going home to greet the trick or treaters.  Will I have any this year?  Yup.   ‘Cause I invited my whole class to come calling.  And most likely students from previous years will show up too.  So I’ll stay in my costume until 8:00 pm.

I like Halloween.

P.S.  My daughter just informed me that the last line is a lie.  She says I am in love with Halloween.  So it should read:

I am in love with Halloween.  So there.

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Writer’s Block

…and I know exactly what’s blocking me.  Time.  Lack of it.  Sleep.  Lack of that too.   But now I can say that my SGOs have been written, I’ve got one out of three observations under my belt, and a new writing unit  has been outlined, thanks to a productive professional development day.Image

Of course, a full day of parent teacher conferences awaits next week, followed immediately by that holiest of holidays, Halloween.  

I guess I’ll be back in November!

Music Moves Us

And I mean that both physically and emotionally.

For the kids, it’s more physical.  For me, it’s pure emotion.  Just ask anyone who’s been in the audience of a school concert with me.  Tears.  Ask my husband and daughter who sit beside me at Broadway musicals.  Tears.  Lots of them.  Music moves me.Image

It moves my students too.  From place to place.  One of my great teacher tricks is using music during transitional times.  In fact, one of the reasons I worried about moving to second grade was that this would be less effective.  Shouldn’t have bothered.   Still works.  Like this:

When I’m ready to move to a new activity, particularly when I want the class to finish whatever they’re doing at their desks and join me on the carpet, I put on a song.  I have amassed quite a collection in 25+ years of cds, cassettes and yes, even record albums.  I am the proud owner of the only record player in the school.  Although our tech guy said they’re called turntables now.  Ok.

Once the music begins, the children know that they need to be on the carpet, sitting on the edge, before the song is through.  When they’ve arrived, I’m sitting on the carpet, ready to toss one of my many beanie baby toys (or reasonable dollar store facsimile) to those who’ve gathered.  This catch-the-beanie-baby-toy activity isn’t just for fun (because fun alone is….no need to get into that here! JK!).  When I’m first introducing the game, I talk about eye contact.  I won’t call your name to catch the toy; I’ll be looking directly into your eyes.  This way, if my aim is off, you’ll still know who it was meant for.  Plus, there’s the added bonus of eye-hand coordination.  Let me tell you – this non-athlete has developed quite a pitch and even a one-handed catch!  And because everyone wants to participate, they put away their things at record speed so they don’t miss their chance to join in.  This way, the transition goes smoothly, quickly and very little time is wasted.  Because time is teaching.

The songs I play vary throughout the year.  My favorites include the Macmillan Sing Along Through the Year cd (an oldie but goodie) and Jonathan Sprout’s American Heroes CD series.  I like Jack Hartmann, Greg & Steve and Charlotte Diamond too.  The Broadway Kids Sing Christmas comes out every December, as does Joanie Bartels’ holiday album.  Andrew Gold’s Halloween CD is on the rotation this time of year.  And I’ve never gotten through a school year without playing a scratchy but catchy record that features songs about days of the week, months of the year and seasons.  Once upon a time it had a yellow album sleeve with the title “It’s Time…” or something to that effect.  Long gone now.  The sleeve, not the record.  That’s a keeper.

And yes, for those of you asking it, I do sing along.  Enthusiastically.  And make up hand gestures.  Remember, these are second  graders.  They eat it right up.  And it fulfills my dream of being a singing sensation on the Great White Way.

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Who needs Broadway when you’ve got a built-in audience in your classroom?  Me.  Every chance I get.