Background: Parking Lot, Spring Mills High School
It was Monday. I was grouchy. I got out of my car, juggling my coffee, school bag, and lunch box.
“Good morning, Mrs. Salfia!” called a young lady dressed like the Statue of Liberty. Another student walked by me wearing a giant Uncle Sam hat and a fake white beard. Around me a horde of red, white, and blue clad students filed into Spring Mills High. One young man zoomed past me, his American flag cape flapping behind him. All around me were wild costumes and excited chatter. I looked around at the joy spilling into and down the hallways, and I felt my bad mood dissipating.
It was ‘Merica Monday, the first day of Spirit Week.
For you non-teachers, Spirit Week is the week leading up to Homecoming, and most schools allow themed dress-up days. For teachers, Spirit Week is a difficult time to get any real intellectual heavy lifting done, but I’d like to argue that for many schools Spirit Week is one of the “Best Things” of the year.
Here’s why I love Spirit Week:
- It gives all students—not just the athletes, band members, and leadership students—a chance connect with their school community. I love when I see the quiet, unassuming kid show up on a Spirit Week Day wearing a wild, elaborate, outrageous costume. Kids make friends during this week. Walking down the halls students who have never spoken before, will compliment each other’s costumes and creativity. It gives everybody a chance to shine.
- It’s really fun. (And not just for the students.) We all know that teachers have one of the hardest and most taxing jobs in America. And many very capable teachers leave the profession for higher paying, less stressful jobs. But in what other job do I get to read and analyze Greek Mythology with another person who also happens to be dressed like Tinky Winky from TelleTubies? It’s ridiculous and wonderful. Seriously, why would I ever give this up?
- Everybody needs a break. And Spirit Week is an excellent time to scale back the rigor and have some fun. Not everyday needs to be a day that we split the atom. It’s ok to sometimes let kids take it easy, relax and just enjoy being at school and being together.
- It builds community! Our school is only in its fourth year, and this year we had our first ever Homecoming parade. We styled this event as an old-fashioned, hometown Homecoming parade and scheduled it for 5:00 PM the Friday before the “big game.” Since this was the first event of this kind for our school, we weren’t sure what to expect, but on the evening of the parade the streets were lined with hundreds of people, young and old, waving, smiling, and lending their support to our students and school. Our students were thrilled. The community was thrilled. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tear up a bit.
- Spirit Week creates buy in. Students get involved and get invested. They start to care. About their class competitions. About who had the most “dress up day” participation. About which class won the spirit stick. About whether or not our team will win on Friday. About what they’re wearing to the big dance at the end of the week. And students who care about their school start to care about their role in the school. About their grades and performance. Spirit Week is another “way in” for educators to reach the ones who you think are unreachable.
So next time Spirit Week rolls around, and your knee jerk reaction is to grumble about loss of instructional time and changes to your schedule, try to see this week through the lens of a “best thing.” As another way for us to reach our students, and get them to take ownership in their community, schools and classrooms!
And also, there’s a chance you’ll get to have an ancient Greek hero in class–which is never a bad day at work.
Happy Fall Everyone!