I spent last week at Lord Byng Elementary School, supervising recess in the same place all week – and that’s unusual. I’m usually a transient, filling in where needed in a variety of places. The week was also notable for a couple other things.
First, I fell for the oldest recess trick in the book, the “Can you hold my hat?’ ploy. This is how it works. After a suitable amount of running around, a little boy came by and asked me to hold his hat. Reflexively, after years of mothering, I took the hat and stuck it in my pocket. I realized later when I looked out over the mass of recessing children, I no longer had any idea who gave me the hat and would now, like a prophet lost in the desert, be doomed to wander from class to class seeking its owner after recess. I can’t believe I fell for that, but there you go – part one of the hat-trick.
However, the real buzz of the week at Byng was Friday’s upcoming “Crazy Hair and Hat Day”.
The children took this very seriously. By Wednesday they were telling me their elaborate plans to make their hair look crazy. These ranged from schemes for multiple random pony tails to hints that their hair would be an amazing unnatural colour when they came on Friday. Of course, they wanted to know what my plan to crazify my hair was too. Obviously at Byng, no one is spared from participating in crazy hair/hat festivities. Expectations are high.
This gave me pause, as I couldn’t really see going through my typical Friday post-recess day with faux dreadlocks or blue hair in honour of the occasion. I mean, I may actually need to be taken seriously later in the day, and the crazy hair situation could interfere with that. Luckily, there was the crazy hat option. I knew one of my recess colleagues, Assistant Secretary Treasurer Wendy Grondzil, had a supply of them and wore a different one for recess each day. Rather than speculate about the whys and wherefores of her fondness for crazy hats, I’ll let Wendy speak for herself,
“The reason I started wearing the hats was for the staff, especially at the beginning of the recess supervision. I wanted to surprise them each day into smiling because of the hats: teachers, Educational Assistants, admin, support, and most of all, the kids. So, for 15 minutes every day, I put on the hat, and remember what it’s like to be a kid and play again.”
Wendy was good for a loan on Friday, saving me further stress about “What Not To Wear” and contributing #2 to the hat-trick.
As you can see, crazy hair was out in full force on Friday, and any adult not at least sporting a crazy hat looked a little suspect too. An exception was young Gina, who just looked plain sad. When I asked her what was wrong, she said she was feeling bad because her hair wasn’t crazy. Between the two of us we figured out that she had a skating helmet in her cubby that might just do for a crazy hat for the rest of the day. Hello, Part 3 of the hat trick, and this one saved the day for Gina.
Crazy hat and hair day is a timeless school ritual that unites everyone in a visible way. What looks “crazy” if we’re alone becomes normal in a group and makes us feel together in our uniqueness. And if you think we all outgrow this, not so much . . . Consider the polar bear swim and Halloween, not to mention hockey games. I rest my case.