We’ve got spirit, yes we do!

Thursday saw some pretty unusual ensembles at Hudson High School… Walking from my classroom to the cafeteria, I saw two boys in coordinating tutus, the Homecoming queen in full football gear, including shoulder pads, and the Easter Bunny.  Maybe if I had just started working at Hudson, I would be more surprised by these outfits, but since I’ve been around for a while, nothing really surprises me.  In fact, I was responsible for the 6’2 baseball player who wore a pale pink gown and a poster reading “Mrs. P is Gorgeous.”

For the past ten years, Stu and I have worked at Hudson, a (relatively) rural school north of Tampa, and during that time, we’ve been knee deep in all aspects of school spirit.  When we first started at our school, we knew that we wanted to get involved, and like a pair of suckers, we volunteered to sponsor the freshman class of 2009.  We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  Almost instantly we were thrown into Homecoming week preparations; I remember asking my next door neighbor, who happened to be one of the senior class sponsors, what I could expect from the float competition.

“You’d better bring it.”

That was the beginning and end of her advice.  I didn’t ask again.

Stu and I, along with another brave soul, worked with that group of students for the next four years.  We went through so much with them, from miserable, heartbreaking, soul crushing losses in every single competition at Homecoming for the first two years, to petty fights, endless fundraising, and the painful realization that some wouldn’t walk because of a senior prank, to some of the best moments of my career, like coaching the senior class president through writing her speech at 10 pm the night before graduation practice, to winning two spirit sticks, to watching some of the best kids I’ve ever known walk across the stage at graduation.

Since we graduated with the class of 2009, Stu has worked with another class, but our involvement with school spirit has changed… instead of working with one group, we’ve taken over Student Government, and we plan and oversee events like Homecoming, Spring Fling, and Teacher Appreciation.  Working with SGA has its benefits; for one thing, I love that we make decisions that see school-wide implementation–I guess its the control freak lover in me.  When we do a good job with publicizing an event and it goes well, I’m thrilled.  And I love giving the kids at our school an incredible high school experience.  I know that my role as a teacher is important, even vital, but as an SGA sponsor, I am able to help kids make life-long memories with events like the Lip Sync Contest and Rent-a-Senior.

But there are struggles with this role that cause me to insist, at least once a year, that THIS will be the last time, the very last time, that I will be a part of SGA.  First of all, the way Stu and I run an event like Homecoming, we start planning for the next year almost immediately after Homecoming is over.  This year, Stu and I went to dinner only a week after Homecoming 2013 and debriefed while looking ahead to Homecoming 2014.  I even took notes.  We can’t escape it… we watch TV and say, “Isn’t that a great dance theme?” or follow Pinterest boards about school spirit (well, I do anyway).  So SGA is almost another full-time job on top of the jobs we’re paid for… to actually teach.  And I’m ashamed to say that at least once a year I’m not the teacher I can be because I’m selling Homecoming dance tickets or fielding questions from sponsors about some activity or another.  Then we have to deal with the people who don’t value our work the way we do.  We regularly hear complaints about the disruptions to the school day or our choices about dress up days.

But despite everything, the work, the hours spent at school decorating, the stress, and the complaints, I can’t walk away because I love the way school spirit has positively affected my school and my students.  I’m thrilled to see the tweets from kids who are proud of our school, who have had an awesome time at some event or another, who brag about our school.  We don’t have the prettiest campus, or the best dressed students, but our kids are proud to be Cobras.

Plus, I get to make relationships with students that last through time and distance.  I’ve attended graduation parties, weddings, and baby showers for my students from the class of 2009, and those relationships weren’t formed in the classroom, but formed over making floats and decorating crowns for Homecoming.

Were you involved in high school?  Did you have teachers who made your high school experience?