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Friday, October 30, 2009

School Halloween Traditions: What makes them stick?

Today, October 30th, was my school's annual Halloween carnaval. This is my fifth year participating in this tradition. The middle schoolers organize activity booths around the playground, and the 8th graders put together a haunted house. The elementary kids go to the music room to perform Intery Mintery and then on the playground for a mini Halloween parade. Then it all breaks up and they head over to the booths.

I used to really love Halloween. Not quite so much any more.

25 years ago, as a kindergarten teacher, I would do intricate units based on "Where the Wild Things Are" (let's not forget it was a book long, long before it was a movie). As a 4th and 5th grade teacher I organized a mini carnaval, based on my own fond memories of my elementary years. I included a dunking for apples activity which always got out of hand, but that was ok, because it was Halloween.

When I came to the middle school in my current school, I was asked (appropriately) to participate in the existing traditions, such as the 8th grade haunted house (I was and am a 8th grade advisor). I try to find the joy in it, but the 13 year old mind is already onto other things and Halloween is a kitchy, campy event for them. They prefer the sardonic, sarcastic and sometimes disrespectful to the honest, fun going feeling of the younger kids. I find myself barking at them (or wanting to, at least, because as the video shows, I am rather soft spoken). The clean up is misery: what 13 year old in their right mind really wants to clean up? At least, I haven't met them yet, if indeed they exist.

So I have slowly been losing my enthusiasm for Halloween. That is a problem because I have a 9 year old son who is just coming up into these traditions with his own brand of enthusiasm and glee. I have to match the energy, at least in part.

I have been thinking a lot about traditions. Where do they come from and why are they maintained? What kinds of traditions stick and what others slowly sink to the wayside.

I have tried to create certain types of traditions myself. I tried for Talent Shows for the 5th graders in my former school and Math Fair in my current one. But there is no evidence that what I try to do actually sticks. And that is the same for nearly everyone I know.

So, traditions are mysterious things for me. I love the idea of them, and yet, they represent a certain aspect of conservative human nature that I wonder about.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

As a person, I do not like Halloween. I think adults look like fools to dress up in ridiculous costumes and run around in all sorts of madness.
As a teacher Halloween is absolutely adorable for the little ones and an excuse for the older ones to get in trouble. Teacher were put in charge of setup and clean up and I guess it worked out well. It was a surprise to the kids and they were excited.