I know Halloween is so over, but my recent Road Trips made me do some thinking about it. When I first started teaching, and I admit this was last century, the idea of kids wearing Halloween costumes to school was unthinkable. Everyone assumed they would get over excited and unruly and not much learning would happen that day. And if there was an acknowledgement of Halloween, it was strictly limited to elementary schools. Letting secondary students wear costumes was beyond comprehension, and even more dangerous than letting them wear hats. And teachers in costumes? Not even on the grid. Nope, Halloween was just another day of hitting the books.
So what’s happened since? Halloween’s gone viral, that’s what’s happened. Adults are more into it than kids, or at least as into it.
With Halloween on my mind, I braved the hallowed halls of a couple of our secondary schools on October 31. My blogging focus was the adult Halloween get ups, and there were many. A costume alone didn’t quite do it either. To be in the game, you needed a theme for the costume that linked you with other costumed people.
I saw groups of staff dressed as the Village People, Monopoly Characters, Sesame Street Characters, scrabble pieces that spelled out “awesome” (see above) and even a quartet of teachers who dressed as Mr. Clean, since they already had the bald thing going on (see below).
What’s my point here? Those of you who read Recess Road Trips regularly are on to me. My posts start with a story about recess or a school event, and you can stop with the story if you want to. But each story also represents some idea about education that I invite (or implore) you to think about.
In this particular case my point is simply this. Schools are tight and connected communities, and despite what may be going on outside them and around them, that sense of community rises up and takes hold as soon as the doors open each day. And yes, we’re all about learning, but learning has to do with more than books. It also has to do with how we are together, and how we should be together, and how we can learn to celebrate that.
When I began my career in education, no one talked about this sense of community as part of learning. The emphasis was on making sure children “behaved” and there was a lot of attention paid to ensuring that things were under the control of adults at all times. I think we’ve come to understand and appreciate the importance of learning how to be part of a community over the years and even come to recognize that this is essential to being educated.
Maybe this is why Halloween is no longer something to suppress in school. Instead it gives everyone an opportunity to express themselves as individuals in the safe confines of an inclusive communal space.
School, by intent or happenstance, is children’s rehearsal hall for life as adults. It’s much more diverse, complex and textured than home. At the same time it’s much more protected and buffered than simply heading out to become an adult on your own. People look out for each other at school, and there’s a trust in that. So having fun together isn’t out of the question, it’s part of the answer.