Oh, the Horror!

I tried to explain to my fellow Fulbrighters (none of whom are teachers) the other night why Halloween is a teacher’s least favorite holiday.  Until you’ve tried to keep the attention of 25 students during an entire month devoted to the consumption of candy, you just can’t understand.  So, I was less than enthusiastic when I heard Nguyễn Tất Thành School would be having a Halloween festival and I would be one of the judges for the costume contest.

My classes on this Halloween were similar to what I would expect in the US.  One class was very wound up about the holiday and we only got half way through the lesson.  In another class, many students were absent because they were busy preparing for the party.  Most students had no recollection of the items I had asked them to bring to class today.  I’m not complaining, it just shows that the Halloween effect is universal.

By the time the party was getting ready to begin at 4:30, I was pretty exhausted.  I had shown up for the morning assembly at 7:20 to see the science club’s demonstrations, so it had been a long day.  I kept reminding myself that to the students and teachers here, this is normal.  A seventh grader told me today that his basketball practice is from 7-9pm, and then he goes home to do homework.  

Well, just like Linus helped reignite Charlie Brown’s belief in Christmas, the students and teachers sparked my Halloween spirit tonight.  The party was limited to just over an hour, but during that time there were games and activities at several different booths, singing and dancing by students, music performances and the costume contest.  There were decorations everywhere and a lighted red carpet runway for the main event.  Hundreds of students from grades 6-12 crowded into the courtyard and just had fun.  There never seems to be a concern about misbehavior at events like these – the students always act appropriately.  

Each class presented an entry for the costume contest.  The contestants moved down the runway quickly and it was hard to keep up with the judging, but the other judges and I did agree on the winners in the end.  Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the great costumes since I was too busy taking notes.

Several teachers and students asked my opinion of the party and said it must be very small compared to what I’m used to.  They were surprised to hear that schools in the US tend not to have large Halloween parties like this and holidays in general are downplayed for several reasons.  I assured them that this was the largest Halloween party I had been to, and that it showed the positive and friendly spirit at NTT.  As one of the other judges said (an English teacher from Australia), it was nice to see the whole school community coming together to have a good time.

As I left  in the dark at around 6:00, half the students were still there, dismantling the booths, putting away the chairs, rolling up the red carpet, sweeping the courtyard.  They had spent weeks preparing for this event, much of it on their own time.  Tonight, they’ll go home and do their homework (or off to extra English classes, or basketball practice, or . . . )  There is a real sense of community here at NTT and that shone through tonight.  I thought the least I could do is come home and write about it.  

Fake blood made from scratch
Detailed homemade decorations
There was Halloween-themed food and drink
The day had started with the Science Club demonstration at 7:20.
After the science assembly, the courtyard was cleared by the students, then set up again in the afternoon for the party.
Students watching from above, looking like cruise ship passengers coming to port.
Still waiting
The older students ran the games.
Having fun at the booths
Waiting for the show to begin
Front row seats
The English Club organized the event.
Makeup, anyone?
A few of the costumes

Comments (16):

  1. Paula Agins

    October 31, 2016 at 11:01

    Just in case you are homesick for PMS……….the kids are all psyched!!!!

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 1, 2016 at 08:45

      And it’s a Monday, so what a long week it will be!

  2. Cindy Cassidy

    October 31, 2016 at 12:27

    As I look around the hallways & classrooms today and see the empty candy wrappers thrown on the floor (and trick or treating is still a few hours away), I’m wishing that we could celebrate Vietnamese-style! So many schools this year have cancelled parades, traditions, etc. due to many factors, but yet there’s this part of me that remembers how much fun it was to go to school dressed up, bringing in a baked good and collecting Halloween candy, (like you would on Valentine’s Day) in our (awesome) decorated bags! It’s such a struggle when the shoe is on the other foot, but I’m glad to see that the students restored your faith in how it can be done well! Happy Halloween, Tim!!

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 1, 2016 at 08:47

      Yes, those were the good old days! Times have changed. Hope you had a good Halloween!

  3. Lori

    October 31, 2016 at 14:23

    Happy Halloween, Tim!!! Sounds like it was a fabulous experience! Kids here are ready to hit the streets!!!!

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 1, 2016 at 08:47

      Hope you had a few treats yourself!

  4. LInda Wight

    October 31, 2016 at 15:46

    HI Tim, it’s nice the whole school gets together and celebrates- sounds like long days for students and teachers- my guilty pleasure candy corn – we don’t have many trick or treaters in our neighborhood and churches or clubs seem to have more parties so they won’t have a lot of children out after dark. I think I’ve outgrown Halloween- I think Chrissy probably does for the grandchildren though I don’t know the costumes. Stephen’s kids have a little par and parade at their preschool during beginning of class I think. THis year 2 and 4 so maybe a little trick or treat in neighborhood as they live in a cul de sac (spelling?) and thre are a lot of little children. I remember enjoying it when little and going to gramma’ house which was 2 blocks away and use to take Teresa Jojnnu and Cecelia when I was a teenager. Many, many years ago Happy Halloween Tim

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 1, 2016 at 08:49

      Thanks for sharing your memories. I can’t imagine trick-or-treating in Brooklyn is the same today. Happy Halloween!

  5. Leah Nero

    October 31, 2016 at 23:05

    Never a dull moment with you Mr. Flanagan!! Happy Halloween – tomorrow should be fun – the Day of the Dead.

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 1, 2016 at 08:52

      Haven’t heard anything about that here. The next big holiday is Teacher’s Day. I keep hearing what a big deal it is, and there are all sorts of events being planned. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it.

  6. Deidre

    November 2, 2016 at 06:56

    This was so heartwarming! It seems the students truly know how to celebrate Halloween. I loved the photos you did take and it made me want to be there with you.
    The maturity level of the students and appreciation for each day is evident. Miss you Tim.

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 4, 2016 at 01:42

      Miss you, too! 🙂

  7. Susanne Murphy

    November 2, 2016 at 21:40

    It does look like fun, and I remain amazed at how well the children manage on their own. Perhaps we do attend too much.

    • Tim Flanagan

      November 4, 2016 at 01:45

      I’m always asking myself what would we have to do differently to get our kids to be able to be more independent when it comes to managing their behavior. A student here who spent a week at a school in Singapore told me that the students there behave much better than the students in Vietnam, so I guess it’s all relative.


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