Nicky DeCesare is the director of the After School Program and Town School and has the pleasure of experiencing the boys in their most playful moods. She is a master at wrangling their after school energy and loves that so many boys like to come hang out even if their parents do not need them to be there. When she first took the helm two years ago she caught on right away to the power of the Extended Day traditions. So, when we asked her to share with us what she loves about her job, she knew just the story to tell.
“This past Halloween, I spent the majority of the afternoon hanging three dozen donuts from the ceiling of our classroom with the amazing Extended Day Team (Dain Vogel ‘98, and Caitlin Bicknell). As I stood high atop the back of a chair, hands covered in donut glaze, struggling to tie an anchor string from the highest point in the room, a fellow faculty member stopped in the doorway to admire our spectacle. After a few minutes of careful observation, he asked the obvious question: “So why do you do this again?”
Great question. There is, of course, the obvious answer: Because it’s fun! There is something about a donut dangling from a string that creates the perfect storm of silly and delicious and puts a smile on the face of every single person who walks into our classroom on Halloween, regardless of age.
But the real answer is more than that.
When I took over the position of Director of After School Programs four years ago, the boys, eager to know how things would be different (and how they would remain the same) without founding director Elaine Blair, started asking questions almost immediately. “Are we still gonna do the donut thing on Halloween?”
I had no idea what they were talking about. I had spent my first two years at Town as an intern teacher in the lower school, and had not been privy to the rituals of the Extended Day Program. Thankfully, I had Stefanie Stoddard, a five year Extended Day veteran teacher, by my side. “What are they talking about?!” I asked her.
“Oh,” she answered. “Every Halloween, we hang donuts from the ceiling and the boys have to try to bite them without using their hands.”
I was baffled. In my mind, the headache I had from running through the logistics of executing such a feat for more than thirty boys over the course of 3 hours (at the end of the day. ON HALLOWEEN.) could certainly not outweigh the benefits. Until I thought a little harder about the true purpose.
We needed to do it because it was a tradition. Like so many traditions, it’s more about the feeling than the actual act itself. Elaine manufactured a little bit of Halloween magic when she first decided to start the tradition of bobbing for donuts in Extended Day, and it’s recreating that magic that fosters a feeling of connection; between the boys and our program, their school, a certain place and time during the year, and each other. It is, like so many here at Town, a tradition that started long before the arrival of us who continue it, and will hopefully continue on as long as it serves its true purpose, which, for Extended Day, is to create a warm, fun, safe, enriching environment for our boys after-school.
I love that our Upper School boys will come back and visit on Halloween – they help tie donuts to strings, demonstrate the most effective “donut-bobbing” techniques, and tell ridiculous stories of “that time in third grade when we were bobbing for donuts and…” (use your imagination to fill in how that story ends!) It’s something that our boys look forward to every year – they start asking about it in early September, and talk about it all the way through June. While we create our traditions, they shape our identity as a community as much as we do them. I am proud to be part of a community of faculty, administrators, families, and students that strives to create, shape and maintain traditions that act in the best interest of our boys, their growth, their learning, their emotional well-being, and their connection to their school. And sometimes, that can be as simple as donuts.