Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why school spirit matters

I think everyone realizes school spirit is important, but we don't ever talk about it, at least not in the way we discuss standardized test scores or curriculum decisions. I guess it's just a 'softer' topic. After all, in its narrowest definition, school spirit is the territory of cheerleaders, pep rallies, and big rivalries. As a result, you won't see too many articles in educational journals on the topic. But I'd like to make a case for why school spirit is really important.

First of all, it's important to clarify how I am defining school spirit. I'm talking about a collective feeling shared by various members of school community, a feeling of pride, energy, commitment, and togetherness. It often manifests itself through sports teams, but it should be celebrated across all aspects of a school, not just extracurriculars.

1. School spirit helps everyone buy into a positive vision of the school. When students and teachers have pride in their school, that collective confidence can translate to self-efficacy, "I'm part of a good school, I can do this."

2. School spirit creates a stronger sense of community. When there is a strong sense of community, there is a feeling of being part of something larger than oneself. We are more likely to follow community norms if we see that others value and share a sense of community. Some norms we value are having good attendance, being respectful, and taking responsibility.

3. School spirit makes people feel good. When we have the 'we' feeling that school spirit generates, we feel better. And when we feel better, we have more energy, more creativity, more compassion, more of all the good stuff. School spirit makes it contagious.

In my next post, I'm going to share a list of ideas for increasing school spirit.

Blogger's note: the picture shown above is from a football game where our student section, with permission, was throwing baby powder in the air with each touchdown. It looked really cool. However, we soon learned that it also makes it really hard to breathe for other fans seated nearby in the stadium. We had to stop, but overall no harm done.

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