Wednesday, October 27, 2010


You'd think I would be able to manage a Tuesday with no class in the morning, a single afternoon session with my Pre-K class, then the Woodland Park Halloween party in the evening, but with my wife locked down at the office preparing three simultaneous client pitches, and a daughter who needed to get to an important session of religious school at one end of the city, dogs that couldn't be left in the car for 13 hours and needed to be dropped off at home at the other end, and a vital medicine pick up at the pharmacy somewhere in between, there was no room for error.

Then I realized that what I thought was a 6:30 p.m. party start time was actually 6:00.

Knowing that there were plenty of other folks with keys to the building, fully capable of getting the show going without me, didn't really help my state of mind. Our Halloween party is always one of the highlights on my social calendar, but this year's was special. For the first time, we'd decided to make it an all-school affair, which meant blending our wee and gentle 2-year-olds with our big, bold, brave, and brash 3-5's class, as well as an unknown number of even bigger, bolder, braver, and brasher alumni. With all the costumes, the dark outdoors, the glowing jack-o-lanterns in the garden, and the unstructured ebb and flow of a party, I wanted to be on scene and ready to greet these youngest members of our community and hopefully act as a kind of anchor for them in what I knew would be a crowded, loud and sweaty scene. It would not serve for me to be rushing around distracted by last minute preparations.

I still wasn't sure how I was going to address my logistical challenges as I prepared for our Pre-K class, when it dawned on me that I had a 7 boy work crew at my disposal (down from our usual 9 due to illness). I would just put them to work! It was a stroke of genius, I tell you. We ran through our usual day at a good clip, eating lunch, learning about voting, wrestling, sharing "scary" items we'd brought from home, making encaustic monoprints with hotplates and melted crayons, playing a terrific board game called Princess on the Pea (don't let the "princess" fool you, even 4-year-old boys love this game), writing in our journals, working puzzles, and reading a book called The Monster Trap by Dean Morrissey.

Then we got to work getting ready for the party, hauling gym mats from the gym into the classroom, preparing a simple art project, setting up the sensory table, getting out the play dough, and organizing a few Halloween-themed toys and games. By the time we were through, we'd knocked a good 45 minutes off my preparation time. Yes!

You'll notice that I have no photos of anything that happened yesterday because there wasn't time to pause during the run-up, and then the fuzzy mittens that go with my giant pink bunny costume made it impossible to work things like buttons. You'll just have to trust me that it was as crowded, loud, and sweaty as I'd anticipated. And fun, fun, fun.

Our closing circle time was a truly amazing and slightly surreal experience for me. There were at least 60 kids there, ranging in age from 1-9, and when they all sat down on the gym floor, they filled half the room, crammed together like sardines in their witch, dragon, princess, and fire fighter costumes. For the last couple weeks both the Pre-3's and 3-5's have been working on the same Halloween songs/activities, so they all knew the drill. And the older kids had all gone through the same routine for three years running during their time at Woodland Park. Oh, it was a primped and primed performing troupe, eager to put on their show. And that's really how it felt. This was no circle time, but rather a kind of community ritual -- and a wild pagan-like one at that. All we were missing was a fire ceremony.

The highlight was when all 60 of them held their masks (paper plates with cut-outs to look like jack-o-lanterns) to their faces and joined me in "scaring the grown-ups":

Halloween is coming
And this is what I'll do
I'll hide behind this pumpkin face
And then I'll say, BOO!

We shook the rafters, but Isak (who came dressed as the letter "H," his favorite letter) said, "We didn't scare Shelly." And sure enough Charlie L.'s mom had been too engaged in capturing a photo of all their be-masked faces to sufficiently show her fear.

So we did it again.

Halloween is coming
And this is what I'll do
I'll hide behind this pumpkin face
And then I'll say, BOOOOOO!

This time several of the kids noticed that Shelly was too busy documenting the "parent scare" to react to it. Some of the older kids, like Thomas (kindergarten) and Esme (first grade), were beyond merely scaring the people in the room and were calling for us to frighten the people across the street, downtown, or even the aliens in outer space. Parents of younger children were covering ears. Several of the kids were howling and yowling out their own solo "boos!" This was going to blow the roof off and we all knew it.

Halloween is coming
And this is what I'll do
I'll hide behind this pumpkin face
And then I'll say . . .

And with a single inhalation, the children of the Woodland Park community drew in their collective breath, summoning up the power that can only come from all of us together, and let out a monsterous, "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

It was so terrifying that even Shelly dropped her camera and quivered in fright.

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Anonymous said...

I was told by a mentor long ago " If a teacher is tired at the end of the day the children didnt help( work) enough. " Our preschoolers love work. When you think about it people are actually taught not to like chores by adults who say....I hate doing____________(fill in the blank) Children are capable of helping do alot of things! Our children picked 159 ears of yummy corn in about 15 min, they spent many summer days picking fruit and veggies and running in the fields and had fun working hard and still did all the preschool work they needed.

Saya said...

Sounds like super-duper fun! :D
Wish I could be a part of it and get scared by all the pumpkin faces! :D

Sara Hickman designs said...

So descriptive, I thought I was there. I can imagine how loud it was with all the children yelling, howling and screaming boo.

Touch of Home Learning

Leigh @ Toasted said...

Wish i was there!

Let the Children Play said...

Tom, would have loved to see that!