Monday, November 2, 2015

Academic & Social Lessons Learned from Halloween

Believe it or not, despite my love for dressing up, I don't "do" Halloween much in my lessons at school. (I actually searched my blog history to see if I've ever written about Halloween in the past and I hadn't.) I supply classroom teachers with Halloween-themed read-alouds from the library, but I don't use them myself. I am the semi-official photographer at the Halloween parade (for archiving and yearbook purposes), but I began the health and safety spiel in the gym on Friday by reminding the students that not everyone celebrates Halloween and that's okay (which means both observing the signs of participating houses so you don't knock on doors that aren't giving out candy, and respecting the students who do not want to dress up for whatever their reasons). Yet, observing Halloween traditions led me to some recent learning of my own.

Halloween Academic Lesson Learned

= Math is everywhere (and I'm not as math-phobic as I thought!)

Ever since my husband told me it was easier to supervise our children as they trick-or-treated than it was to distribute candy at the door, I've been giving out candy, to prove him wrong. For some reason, I counted the visitors. In 2012, we had 135 trick-or-treaters. I lost my 2013 figures (which upset my sense of order) and in 2014 we had 98 trick-or-treaters. I liked counting because then my husband and I could estimate how much candy we would need without running out. This year, 2015, we had 121 visitors. I thought that was the limit of my mathematical leanings, but a Twitter conversation with Aviva Dunsiger made me realize that a lot more math was happening.

 I don't consider myself to be a math fan, either as a teacher or student; however, Aviva's observations opened my eyes to authentic numeracy tasks, that I was *willingly* doing.

Halloween Social Lesson Learned

= Watch for unspoken needs (and know when to push and when to wait)

After that incident a few weeks ago with a student experiencing an anxiety attack, I've been trying to be more observant with some of my quieter students. One of the Grade 1 students I work with has been talking a lot more to me now than she did while in kindergarten. This is good, even though what she often tells me is "I'm scared". She needs a lot of praise, encouragement, and wait time. She asked me last week whether or not I liked her, and when I effusively responded positively, she seemed genuinely surprised and happy. On this chaotic Friday, I noticed that "A" was holding back even more than usual. I asked her if she was okay and she said no. After some cautious and gentle questioning, it turns out she wanted to dress up but left her costume at home. Thankfully, as part of my Library Learning Commons Play Area, I have a bin filled with costumes. I offered her the chance to wear one of the costumes. It took her a long time to decide and express her desires, but after a while, she selected a sparkly cape and we pinned it into a dress. Unfortunately, her fear came back with a vengeance when she had to return to class and I was about to take a group photo. She didn't want to go in. I didn't force her. I took the photo without her in it and quietly let the supply teacher know she was safe but in the hall and feeling a bit ill-at-ease. What was going to happen when her class went into the gym for the Halloween parade? Would she choose to sit while the rest of her class walked? I watched and when it was her class' time, one of her friends held her hand and together they marched with the rest of the group. I saw "A" in the hall by herself a short time later and talked to her. She admitted that she was scared to get up but she did it. I applauded her bravery and asked if it was okay to take a photo of her now. She agreed. (I put the blue square on the photo here to protect her privacy.)

I discussed the incident with my husband afterwards and he commented that sometimes it depends on who asks the person with anxiety to do something (i.e. a fellow student invited her to get up to walk vs the teacher demanding it). I'm glad I was able to help her. It wasn't always easy waiting as long as I had to, but she overcame that challenge and hopefully it will make other challenges in the future less scary.

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