How Teachers Can Stop Halloween Week from Being the Worst Week Ever

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By Andrew Pillow

Tomorrow is Halloween. Every child’s favorite fall holiday. Why wouldn’t it be? They get to dress up in outfits and costumes that would never be appropriate any other time. They get to go from place to place getting candy and other treats. It also signals the start of the home stretch to Christmas break. I remember a time when Halloween was one of my favorite times of the year too.

That time is long gone.

As a teacher Halloween is marked mostly by stress and extra work. My school doesn’t let students wear costumes on Halloween. 5 to 10 of them will come in one any way leading the remaining 25 kids to berate me all day about why I let the other’s wear their costume. Well-meaning parents will drop off treats and goodie bags for students thinking they are doing me a favor when in reality they just made a chore for me. Then, of course, the candy. For the next two weeks after Halloween, you become the lead detective in trying to shut down the black market of candy. Investigating horrific crime scenes of candy wrappers and improperly discarded chewed gum all over your classroom. Even when you don’t see students eating candy… you know they are. It is easy to tell as they are quite literally bouncing off the walls from the sugar high only to be calmed to the point of no return by the inevitable crash.

How can a teacher make Halloween not suck? Here are the two things I learned over the years:

1.    Don’t fight it. Control it.

I’m a really good classroom manager. But I have long since given up trying to shut down the candy market on Halloween. Instead, I have opted for a more feasible option. Boundaries and incentives.

My students are allowed to eat their candy in class with the following stipulations:

  • They are eating their own candy. We are not getting up, walking around, and exchanging candy with others.
  • The candy cannot become a distraction from doing their work. 
  • All wrappers will be held at their seat until the end of the class at which point they will be thrown away. This keeps them in their seats and also helps you monitor clean up.

2.    Tell parents to chill.

Parents love to use holidays as a chance to show off. This is especially true in the younger grades. You need to message beforehand expectations around Halloween. If you don’t, prepare to have a chaotic day or mad parents.

  • If your school allows your students to wear costumes fine. If they don’t message to parents in advance that costumes are not allowed. If you are doing costumes let parents know that your class is not a fashion show and they are not permitted to interrupt and take pictures all day.
  • If you are having some type of Halloween party message to parents the expectations around treats and goodies. If you aren’t let them know in advance, before they go buy things, that you are not distributing treats.

You may do all these things and still get a chaotic Halloween. The important thing is to manage it the best you can and just make it through the week. All the candy will be gone by next Friday and you can get back to normal.

Have a great Halloween.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.