Saturday, November 1, 2008

Homecoming and Halloween

The winter wonderland featured in my last blog only lasted for that one weekend, and we all went to work slowly on Monday. By the end of the week the snow had all thawed, turned into grubby slush and drained away. We are now back to regular fall weather, with mild, sunny, pleasant days and the last of the golden leaves falling. Some days, when I am driving to school or the shop, it seems like God is emptying a shaker of golden fairy dust on the streets.

The holiday season has started with Halloween. Next comes Thanksgiving and then Christmas, of course. It makes for a festive atmosphere as the weather cools down and life gradually withdraws inside homes and other heated dwellings. It feels good. Even before Halloween there was Homecoming. Now I know Kellie Mac, Julisa and other devotees of Grease, Degrassi and various North American dramas based in high school will be reading attentively, because we have always heard about Homecoming and the Homecoming king and queen, without ever really knowing what it meant. I have heard a few different explanations, but my current understanding is that Homecoming is a time when many alumni return to their high schools and especially colleges (universities) for festivities and catch ups. There is always a football game and a dance. We had a half day of school followed by a pep rally and activities. I know! It's so 'Grease'. All afternoon I felt like I was going to bump into the Pink Ladies or maybe see Danny and Sandy sail over my head in their chittly chitty bang bang style car!

Real live cheerleaders and 'extreme orange' students. The cheerleaders in white are 'varsity' or the top level, typically the seniors. Some of my freshman students are in black, behind.

Some of the activities or stalls included dunking the dean (in a vat of cold water) and sumo wrestling.

The whole week of homecoming is called Spirit Week (meaning school spirit) and there is a dress up theme for each day. As you can imagine, I was loving it. Monday was decade day so I did the Flashdance 80s thing, along with many of my students. Tuesday was surfer day, Wednesday was cowboy day, Thursday was nerd day and Friday was EXTERME orange and balck day. Why orange and black? They are the school colours of Billings Senior High School, home of the broncs! ... I am becoming quite indoctrinated...

On Nerd Day, the great joke is to ask people in costume why they did not dress up, and then tell those in normal clothes that their costume is fantastic. Blurry photo courtesy of one of my students

Seriously though, the dressing up is enjoyed by most students and the festivities provide a carnival atmoshpere that seems all the more important as the timetable and curriculum are so traditional and fixed. Kelly and I went to the Homecoming football game at the school stadium on Friday night. The school band (about 80 musicians) performed from the stands when there was a touchdown, just the riff from 'We Will Rock You' and then they played a set on the field at half time, after the Homecoming royalty paraded on and the king and queen were announced. (Students all had the opportunity to vote for the king and queen at lunch times during the week.) In addition, the cheerleaders and dance team were out in force. Between all of them and the athletes, it felt like most of the school were celebrating together. Many more students were socialising in the stands, and it seemed like many of them had no more idea what was happening in the game than I did. It is a safe and enjoyable way for teens to spend their Friday night.

A little bit of detail about the fixed curriculum and timetable for my teacher friends and others interested... I teach Freshman English (year 9) and as the new girl, I don't have any Honours Classes. I am fine with that. I teach five lessons a day of the same thing, and see the same kids in the same time slot each day. For example, my sixth period class comes to me from 2 till 3 pm every day for English. Third period (10 - 11am) is my preparation. Truancy laws are enforced and students seem better trained. They get there regularly and on time, but overall they seem less engaged to me. I do feel rather sorry for my students at the moment, as we are finishing off 'The Odyssey' before we head in to 'Romeo and Juliet'. Grammar and vocabulary are tested often too. I have no choice over the texts that are taught. I love the classics but I understand that not all of my fifteen year old students do. It seems like many of the more energetic teachers take second jobs such as teaching on line or selling tickets at the school football games to supplement their incomes rather than put more into their teaching. I can't work out yet whether I am better or worse off than I was teaching in Alice, once you take into consideration lower taxes here and the fact that my employer in paying for my health insurance.

Our neighbourhood was totally involved in Halloween. Some of the bigger, historic houses at the top of the street set themselves up as haunted houses and give out thousands of lollies on Halloween. A number of the drama club members I have got to know work in haunted houses and corn mazes, dressed up in scary outfits to jump out at children. They are all complaining of extreme muscle pain from springing up to terrify children every minute over an eight hour shift.

Kelly carved our pumpkin, and Aiden and Evan, aka Dracula and Batman, (Tera and Dan's boys) came trick or treating.