When Teachers Tell Their Stories – Part 6

In Part 5, children were connecting words to other stories.  Their language and critical, divergent thinking was expanding.  I told another Jennie Story that had plenty of excitement, “The Spider Story.”

Part 6
Turning off the lights when telling a story is an attention grabber.  When that story is about Halloween, all the better.  This story also has a lesson, adding to the importance of storytelling.

The Halloween Story

It happened like this.”  When I was a little girl, children went trick-or-treating all by themselves.  There were no parents trick-or-treating.  We were…alone.  I’ll never forget the Halloween when I was eight and my sister was six.  We were so excited!  I dressed up as Raggedy Ann and my sister dressed up as a scarecrow.  We had our bags ready to collect candy.  Then my Mother said, “Jennie, don’t forget to go trick-or-treating at Mrs. Crotty’s.”

Mrs. Crotty!  She was old and mean.  She never smiled.  Her house was always dark.  Even the bricks on her house were dark.  And, the bushes and trees were enormous and grew all over.  I never saw a light in her house.  It smelled old and funny.  She did, too.  I did not want to go trick-or-treating at Mrs. Crotty’s.

I didn’t say anything and my sister and I headed off all over the neighborhood.  We had so much fun and stayed out until it was very dark.  When we got home we spread our candy out.  I gave my sister the Tootsie Roll Pops and she gave me the Reese’s peanut butter cups.  We were having a great time.  Then my Mother said, “Jennie, did you go trick-or-treating at Mrs. Crotty’s house?”  I looked down and didn’t say anything.  She said, “Take your sister and go, now.”

This was bad.  I was scared.

I took my sister’s hand and we walked to the house.  By now, trick-or-treat was over, and there were no lights on at any house.  The whole neighborhood was pitch black.  Of course Mrs. Crotty’s house was the scariest of all.  We walked up to her dark porch.  It was the longest walk, ever.  I was squeezing my sister’s hand so hard.  I was sure my heart pounding was visible.

“Sarah, you knock on the door.”

“No!  Mother told you do it.”

So, I swallowed hard, held my breath, and knocked on the door with my heart pounding.  Then, there was a creak of the door.  Just as we were ready to run away the lights came on, and Mrs. Crotty was there.  She was smiling!  She said, “Hi Jennie and Sarah.  Wait right there.  I have something for you.”  She went to the kitchen and brought back each of us a huge popcorn ball, warm and covered with caramel and butter.  She wasn’t even scary!”

And the moral of this story for children?  Face your fears.  You can be brave.  Scary things might not be so scary after all.  The lessons learned here are not direct.  There are no words in the story that say, “Be brave.”  I call this the indirect approach, which is far more powerful.  Children have to reason and come to that conclusion on their own.  I think that in itself is why the story is a popular one, packed into Halloween.


Stay tuned for Part 7.  It’s not for the shy and the weak.

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in behavior, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Halloween, Imagination, preschool, storytelling, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to When Teachers Tell Their Stories – Part 6

  1. How marvelously mindful, Jennie. I enjoyed your insights as much as the story. Hugs on the wing!

  2. beetleypete says:

    I think every neighbourhood had a ‘Mrs Crotty’. A great way to get that lesson across, Jennie. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Hi Jennie, I think you have just displayed the very best of creative non-fiction writing. You know, most folks think that creative writing is only about fiction, but when I was teaching creative writing, I often talked about how making the everyday things like bushes, bricks, etc. on normal homes, and similar things really make writing come alive. Your story is just fantastic in so many ways. Yes, Mrs Crotty was a great lesson, and the feeling of Halloween rings to true for me because our parents did not go with us either. In those days, it was never necessary in our neighborhood. We had one big old mansion type house that was scary like that and it had a giant wrought iron fence that was very imposing with a locked gate on the driveway. The people had two giant dogs, Amos and Andy, and they used to scare us to death, but today I know they were great danes, and really gentle giants. But in those days, it was enough to keep us away from that place. Thank you for the great story. Halloween is my favorite holiday beginning my favorite season – autumn. It is the time of all sorts of wonderful and magical things.

    • Jennie says:

      I recently learned that creative non fiction is a popular genre. It even has a title, CNF. And that is definitely what I write. The everyday is so important, because that’s what people relate to. I am so glad you enjoy my CNF. 🙂 I love your spooky house and dog story! Like you, fall is my favorite season. There is magic in the air! Many thanks, Anne.

  4. petespringerauthor says:

    Great story, one filled with so much wisdom too! Your story made me think of one of an older couple who lived in my neighborhood growing up. I don’t even remember their names, but the man was a bit of a practical joker. One year we went to their house, and he gave my friends and me a big potato. I’m sure the looks on our faces was priceless. He laughed so hard, but then pulled out a candy bar. Such a good memory.

  5. Darlene says:

    Another great story with more than one lesson. What I also got from it was not to judge folks by their appearances. As kids, there was always one older person who was a loner and a bit odd, that we all feared. But once you got to know them, they were just lonely. I’m sure the kids just love this one and especially at Halloween.

  6. Enjoyed it Jennie. Thanks.

  7. Great lesson for the kids!

  8. Ritu says:

    Aw! A lovely story!!!

  9. I hope when I get a bad rep as I age (old and mean) that there will still be parents encouraging their kiddos to ‘take a chance’ and see all is not as it appears.
    Of course, as usual, looove this, Jennie.

  10. Opher says:

    A great story. There’s no reward like overcoming your own fears!

  11. 😀 Storytelling in the dark. I believe this is fun, and the pubils never will forget the content of the story too. 😉 You are so amazing Jennie! So much work, and one always forget, a lot of preparation before. Thank you! Michael

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Nothing is worse than those little books determined to teach values to children while boring them to death. Real stories have historically been and still are the best way to impart values to kids.

  13. One of my favorite story books is one where the children act out the story. I think if my memory serves me well, it is called Stone Soup, and the children get to be the jury, which is a good exercise for children to use their judgement and then note why or what they would do differently. I think there is another one like it too, but I cannot remember the name or anything about it. It seems to me that it WAS good though.

    • Jennie says:

      Stone Soup is an outstanding book. Acting out books is a terrific thing for children to do. Last year my preschoolers acted out “The Story of Little Babaji.” Fantastic!

  14. Oh! I thought the moral of the story was to be kind to those different from ourselves, particularly if they don’t have anyone and are lonely.

    • Jennie says:

      Had I told the story in a different way, that definitely would have been the moral. In this case, fear was predominant. I have a classroom puppet, Gloria, who is old and looks like a witch. She’s just a shy friend to all the children. She’s the best thing I’ve ever done to help children develop kindness and acceptance. Gloria is beloved!

  15. L. Marie says:

    What a great story! I can’t help thinking of Mr. Jones, an older man in my neighborhood. I used to pass his house on my way to school. Your story is a good one to help children face fears.

  16. Dan Antion says:

    This was a great story, Jennie. I can imagine you sharing it with the children. I do have to comment on one part – “I gave my sister the Tootsie Roll Pops and she gave me the Reese’s peanut butter cups.” – I think you got the better part of that deal 😉

  17. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, Once again–this is wonderful!

  18. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is part 6 in Jennie’s wonderful series–When Teachers Tell Their Stories!

  19. Such a great lesson, and wrapped up in a fabulous story to boot. :O)

  20. Norah says:

    Great story, Jennie. Being courageous is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. You did it!

  21. Pingback: Teaching, Indirectly, and More Powerfully! – lovehappinessandpeace

  22. What a great post, Jennie, it just goes to show that most elderly people are lovely.

  23. dgkaye says:

    Those kids are braver than me, lol. No lights and Halloween stories, I’m outta there, lol 🙂

  24. Another grand lesson on assumptions. That’s a good story.

  25. What a great story! It’ll keep the kids on the edge of their seats!

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