Friday, October 24, 2014

"That's What's Cool, Teacher Tom"

The social event of our preschool season is our annual all-school Halloween party, a typically raucous affair attended by most of our 65 or so students, their parents, siblings, and often grandparents. All three classes have been "practicing" our Halloween songs at circle time, which are mostly variations on songs we've been singing together for as long as I've been at Woodland Park.

Easily the most popular, for all ages, are a pair of ditties that involve holding up jack-o-lantern faces to our own, then removing them as a surprise ending.

The first I sell as a song for the "babies," one we sing gently and sweetly while thinking of the "little kids" who will laugh and laugh when we sing it for them:

Someone is hiding, hiding, hiding
Someone is hiding
Who could it be?
Peek-a-boo, I see you!

The second, however, is for the grown-ups and "big kids" who we intend to scare:

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

We practice this over and over in all the classes, getting louder and louder (which we all equate with scarier and scarier) with each successive iteration, until we're frightening the aliens in outer space.

I have a small set of 25 practice pumpkin faces that were created years ago, but for the big event, what with all the siblings, we're going to need at least 125, which requires a manufacturing process. We use paper plates for our pumpkin faces, with eyes, noses and mouths precut, and each class takes a turn cranking out as many as they can.

Teachers often complain about the challenge of getting older boys to the "art table." Well let me tell you, I've found that manufacturing processes are a great lure, especially if they involve glue guns, although in this case we were just using tempera paint in the colors we all agreed were "Halloween colors": orange, black and yellow. I've found that one of the key parts of making an art project into a manufacturing project is to say, "We won't have time to put your name on any of them. You're making them for everyone."

As a swarm of boys descended on the table yesterday, I had to wait awhile for a chair to open up for me. When I finally took a seat, the first thing I commented upon were the stenciled pumpkin faces the kids were leaving behind on the table top.

"Hey, there are pumpkin faces on the table."

Wyatt said, "Yeah, you make them like this, Teacher Tom," and he showed me by quickly painting a plate solid black, then lifting it up for the big reveal.

"Thanks for showing me," I said, then got to work painting orange outlines around some triangle eyes.

"No, Teacher Tom," said Yuri, "You have to paint right across the eyes . . . Like this," and he showed me on his own pumpkin face.

I said, "But I just want paint around the eyes."

"That's what's cool, Teacher Tom . . . Look." He picked up his plate and held it into my face, "The paint that's in the eyes stays on the table. Only the paint that's around the eyes stays on the plate."

I thanked the boys for their help, then got to work manufacturing my pumpkin face, employing the scientific magic of the simple stencil, chatting with the guys about making babies laugh and grown-ups quiver.

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