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Leah Thomas

“Can we please do something spooky?” Antonio (pseud.) demands for the seventh time in as many minutes. “I don’t want to do anything unless it’s really scary.”

Antonio is a third grader with a lot on his mind, although spookiness seems to be at the forefront. Every day since I began collaborating with his teacher on a poetry unit, he has demanded a little darkness and terror from us, and we’ve indulged just a little, whenever possible. It’s the scariest time of year, after all, and the one time of year that scary is actually fun. Monsters can’t frighten you if you delight in them.

Antonio is far from alone in wanting a little macabre flair in his lessons. Consider how kids perk up their ears when mummies are mentioned, or eagerly dig for dinosaur bones, or ramble on about Five Nights at Freddy’s, or declare that Bloody Mary is haunting the school bathroom yet again. Whenever I engage in a DEAD session (Drop Everything and Draw), there are kids who delight in the name. Scary things are often thrilling things.

And there’s no denying that death is a part of life, and a huge part of artistic expression. I have never understood adults who want to shelter students from this rather than help them grow accustomed to or find beauty in life’s only guarantee. If there are students in your classroom who show some morbid inclinations, don’t closet those things away. Find a way to turn dark poems or statements into lessons of their own. Students who feel that their fears or dark thoughts won’t be condemned in a classroom become more comfortable, and if there is actual darkness in their lives that they aren’t comfortable sharing, this can make talking about these things easier.

Of course, this is all at a teacher’s discretion, and careful judgment might be necessary. This is only the opinion of a girl who was nicknamed “Morbid Child” in junior high because I couldn’t seem to stop writing about my dead cats. But that’s why the issue is near and dear: my teachers saw me writing darkness and told me to keep on writing it. I got better, emotionally and grammatically.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only student who has ever been saved by spooky.