Halloween, a mixed bag

Halloween 2011

I’ve never been much of a face-painting, wig-wearing, costume-making gal. But since celebrating Halloween is as American as my passport, that makes me a ghoulish expert. When Alison suggested throwing a Halloween fiesta for the students at I.E.S. Gómez-Moreno, Elle, Alison, and I put our skulls together to come up some rockin’ holiday games. Halloween isn’t very popular in Spain, and we wanted to share the best of the best with our students. We dedicated time, energy, and money to make the day a success, but after the 1.5 hour-long party breezed by, I wasn’t sure whether to proclaim it a victory or a failure.

Obstacle One: Timing

When we announced that our party would take place from 3 to 4:30 p.m., my co-teachers blinked in surprise. A typical Spanish high school day runs from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. There is a 25-minute break at 11 a.m., during which the students get to toss around their ball of choice, gossip, and eat a snack. At the end of the day, they are famished and go straight home to eat lunch. Because of the schedule, extracurricular activities are few and far between.

At the very beginning of the party, herds of students poked their heads into the courtyard, curious to see what the fuss was all about. We had lured them in with promises of cookies, but were planning to bring the sweets out after the kids had played a few activities; we didn’t want the participants to come for the treats and rush away without dabbling in the tricks.

Half of the students swooped in, grabbed apples from the barrel we’d readied for apple-bobbing, and left as quickly as they had arrived. Others took one look around, complained that the event sucked, and walked out.

Lesson learned: Suggest–nay, insist–that the event take place during the day

Obstacle Two: Staff Support

When passing on the message that there was a Halloween party in the works, the teachers radiated enthusiasm. “It’s your one chance to attend a real Halloween party with real Americans!” a co-teacher announced.

“Are you going to be there?” one of the students asked.

“No,” she bluntly replied.

So, even though the event took place right after school, we only had two teachers stop by. Additionally, the cleaning staff made it quite clear to us that they thought we were making extra work for them and they didn’t appreciate it. Two of them popped in and out of the party, scowls on their brows and “Are you done yet?” on their pursed lips.

Lesson learned: Don’t expect open arms

Obstacle Three: An Army of Four

There are only four teaching assistants at our school. Planning the party was painless enough; the real challenge came to corralling the group of 15-20 students who decided to stay. The most problematic timing was at the start of the shin-dig, with the aforementioned swoop-down-and-grab-all-the-apples incident. This could have easily been avoided had there been more helpers directing traffic to multiple stations and explain that bobbing for apples requires the mouth and not the hands.

We had prepared five different stations for the kids, and there were only four of us.  Was this mathematical folly on our part? We actually had more ideas but decided to whittle down the number of activities in the name of sanity. To be fair, the teachers did have a meeting later in the day from 4:30-6:30. I understand their desire to escape beyond the school walls for a few hours. However, I can’t help but wonder how much variety we could have offered had we had the luxury of a few extra hands.

Lesson learned: Enlist help. Additionally, don’t party it up on a day the teachers have a meeting

Obstacle Four: Material Limitations

The party’s greatest supporter was our school’s bilingual coordinator. He met with us several times to ask how preparations were going, and was one of the two teachers who actually showed up to the event. During the planning process, he also asked us what materials we needed. We were already using some of our own resources–Elle and Alison bought books with Halloween imagery, Alison and I made cookies, and all of us bought apples. We drew up a list for the rest of the things we needed, and it appeared that most of these items could be found within the school’s walls.

Since we were also planning to create a few works of art, we were told we could use supplies from the art class. It was there that Alison, Elle, and I spent about four hours drawing and painting a humorous photo corner as well as huge pumpkins for a game of pin-the-face-on-the jack-o’-lantern. I must add that I spent one of these hours simply struggling to coax open a rusty can of paint. We desperately wanted to use white paint for our ghost, but alas, of the three white paint tins available, none of them would yield. I finally gave up and suggested blue or purple as a suitable substitute, as these were one of the few colors which hadn’t dried in the can to the point of no return.

The three of us marveled at the lack of materials in the art room–did students even paint in this class? Were they required to bring their own paints, thus justifying the lack of color? The paint brushes too were ill-equipped for what we needed–the fine-tipped brushes stretched the process out much longer than it should have been. And let’s not even start with the strength of the tape we were given to hold the posters up with.

Lesson learned: Be prepared to supply all materials

So how did the actual party go? The kids that did stick around seemed to enjoy themselves. They gobbled up our homemade cookies, played basketball, made cards, and bobbed for apples. Here are some pictures of all of the stations minus the basketball game:

Crafting spook-tacular cards

Pin-the-face on the jack-o’-lantern

Bobbing for apples

Tic-tac-toe with pumpkins vs. skull and crossbones

Elle and I in the photo corner

Happy Halloween from (some of us at) IES Gómez-Moreno!

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  1. hahaha such brutal honesty here…i love it. We’ll have to see how Thanksgiving compares…if we’re recovered by then 🙂

  2. Cassandra

    Thanksgiving! We could find a big piedra and let the kiddos pose on top of Plymouth rock.

    Seriously, though, I am investing in paintbrushes if we tackle another holiday.

  3. I would have come to your Halloween party in a heartbeat! My school couldn’t have cared less about Halloween. I was secretly hoping they’d ask me to plan something, since it’s the one American “holiday” that I celebrate with enthusiasm (I’ll let you decide what that says about me). It looks like you guys did a phenomenal job putting everything together, but there’s not much you can do when you aren’t getting any support from where you need it (i.e., the teachers).

  4. Cassandra

    Thanks, Lauren. Your story reminds me of how strange I felt last year when I was at school on Thanksgiving Day for the first time in my life. That’s too bad you didn’t get to celebrate the holiday at all! Hopefully the nightlife will be eager to usher in this American import…

  5. E for effort casey! it doesnt seem like it was that big of a fail! at least those who participated did have a good time, focus on the good! and forget about thanksgiving, thats even less fun and eventful as halloween, the most fun day of the year!

  6. what a wonderful idea; love your enthusiasm! totally would have been there if we lived in the same city. 🙂

  7. I think you did a fabulous job despite all of your obstacles! I love the decorations you made. The story about the kids taking the apples meant for bobbing and leaving will make a humorous anecdote in the future, at least. 🙂

  8. Cassandra

    Kristen, you knew I had to make a photo corner, no matter the holiday!

    Thank you for your support. I think that the utter fail of explaining apple-bobbing will make a funny story in the future…

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