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Tales from the First Year...SuperReader: Thoughts on Halloween

By Jessa Reed

This is a flash post that is part of the Tales from the First Year series. Tales from the First Year chronicles the journeys of seven first-year teachers as they navigate the trials, tribulations, and celebrations that come with the first year of teaching.

I never expected to care so much about a Halloween costume. I didn’t quite understand my teammates’ insistence that we find a four-pronged theme: north, south, east, west. The three little pigs and the big bad wolf. Ninja Turtles. Suites in a deck of cards. I had my Harry Potter wand from Ollivander’s at Universal Studios that chose me; a hand-drawn scar in eyeliner upon my forehead would render me recognizable with minimal effort.

We settled on the four seasons; I would be spring. 

Yet my students had completed a writing assignment in which they wrote an opinion piece: I think Ms. Reed should be a ___ for Halloween. The day before our Fall Celebration Parade, my students kept peppering me with questions. Whose opinion essay won? I realized that this would be an incredible teaching moment - words have power. I had just taught a writing mini-lesson on the purpose of opinion writing: to change the thoughts or actions of the reader. Here was a chance for students to SEE that in action. I was a blank slate. Their words could change the course of my costume.

I drove to Michael’s after school with an abundance of doubt and a glimmer of hope. I am not crafty. I also had a stack of assignments to read. What matters most? In that moment, connecting with my students triumphed over entering checkmarks in my gradebook. I imagined their faces as they realized that their teacher was serious: she took their opinions to heart. Their words would shine brightly through the bejeweled SuperReader that adorned the back of my simple superhero costume, a play on words with my last name. In my hybrid classroom, the most compelling essay from each group persuaded me to be a superhero and a book. Walking into Michael’s, I didn’t have a solid plan. Would I need to somehow make two costumes, in addition to my team theme? As I walked down the picked-over aisles, I knew I would need to be scrappy. 

I had a stack of assignments to read. What matters most? In that moment, connecting with my students triumphed over entering checkmarks in my gradebook.

In Michael’s, I could immediately identify the teachers. With our arms filled with tshirts and tulle, washable paint and boxes, our faces anticipated the delight of our students seeing their teacher transformed. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted to be a part of this teacher community until I realized that I was PART of it, carrying my own magic in the form of stick-on jewels and iron-on letters. It was like I was back in high school, wearing my soccer game-day shirt. Even though we didn’t all sit at the same lunch table, there was a camaraderie on game day that connected us. 

Like the “a-ha” moments I try so hard to inspire in my students, it came to me: I wouldn’t be a bird or plane but SuperReader! I suddenly had an alter ego like Clark Kent. With glitter iron-on letters, a blue shirt, and a Captain America shield, I had all the ingredients to affirm my students’ creativity. And mine.