Monday, October 31, 2011

From the Files: A Halloween Crisis

Halloween in a school is always an adventure. The best advice for school personnel on this day was shared with me by a senior teacher early in my career: "Stay more sugared up than the kids." Whether or not the school has particular activities or parties planned, there's a certain level of craziness that infects most kids the day of the biggest candy fest of the year.

Several Halloweens ago, I was dressed as Greg from the Wiggles for Halloween. For those of you unfamiliar, the Wiggles are an Australian children's music and television group. They dress in black slacks and solid colored shirts. Greg used to be the yellow one, before he got sick. My infant son was Jeff (purple) and my husband was Anthony (red). My daughter wisely refused to have any part in this.

I arrived at the office at school that morning to find a witch and a mad scientist already hard at work answering phones and assisting kids. The day proceeded as Halloweens usually do, with a smattering more behavior issues than usual and a lot of cute costumes. Around lunch time, a bleeding tree frog entered the office.

The frog had had a collision with a pole on the playground and was sporting a cut on his forehead. There were no signs of a concussion, but he was bleeding pretty heavily. Greg the Wiggle took a look and immediately realized that the frog was going to need to be seen by a doctor -- the cut was pretty deep, and stitches looked like they were in the tree frog's future. The witch got out the emergency cards and started calling his mom.

With the mad scientist assisting, Greg donned gloves and cleaned the frog up. He was scared. He was only a third or fourth grade tree frog, and he'd never had stitches before. There was a lot of blood, and it hurt. Greg spoke calmly to the frog, explaining that the stitches would be quick, and that nowadays they sometimes even use glue to seal up cuts like this. Head wounds bleed a lot, she said, but it really wasn't that bad. The mad scientist held supplies and handed them over as Greg applied a butterfly bandage to the frog's forehead, pulling the edges of the cut together and stopping the bleeding.

Mom arrived and transported the frog to the emergency room, and the office returned to normal, or at least as normal as things can be in a school office staffed by Greg from the Wiggles, a witch and a mad scientist. We had our annual Halloween parade around the neighborhood, with 450+ kids trailing behind Greg in their costumes, scaring the neighbors. I called mom's cell phone that afternoon and learned they were still waiting in the ER, no news.

Around four o'clock, as I was finishing up for the day, the phone rang. It was tree frog's mom. She said, "He wants to talk to you. We're in the car on the way home."

Tree frog got on the phone and exclaimed, "Nothing!" I didn't know what he meant. "No stitches, no glue, nothing! The doctor said whoever put on that butterfly bandage did such a good job he wasn't going to touch it. So I want to know. What's your favorite candy?"

"Why do you need to know my favorite candy?" I asked

"'Cause I'm going trick or treating tonight and I'm gonna get a bunch of candy and I'm getting you some!" he replied.

The next morning, one of my students, sporting a big band-aid on his head, greeted me with a bag full of mini-snickers and a big smile. It may have been my best experience as an administrator ever, the Wiggles notwithstanding.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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