It’s Homecoming Week at my girls’ high school. The football game is tonight and the dance is tomorrow night. All week, every day, there have been different Spirit Days for the students to participate in — Nerd Day, Superhero Day, etc. Today is School Spirit Day and everyone is encouraged to wear school colors (black and orange).

1986 or 1987. At a marching band competition. I'm the second from the right in the oh-so-stylish ivory double-knit polyester vest and shorts.

In order to really amp up the spirit, each graduating class is challenged to out-do the others in terms of numbers of people participating in that day’s theme. The prize is the Spirit Stick — a piece of bamboo that is rumored to have been hacked from a bamboo grove with car keys, then painted and be-ribboned and be-dazzled and be-I-don’t-know-what-else.

This is all an attempt to build school spirit, something that I know the principal and faculty have been working on all year. When I heard back in August that spirit building would be a big goal for this year, I was perplexed. I didn’t get it. I just assumed that everyone automatically had school spirit, but apparently that’s not the case.

I had school spirit back in my day. Lots of it.  I went to pep rallies and football games and wore my green and gold with pride.  So much so, in fact, that when I ordered my class ring, I got my birthstone (emerald) in the obligatory gold setting and was delighted that it perfectly matched up with school colors. Yes, I’m a little OCD that way.

My girls, on the other hand, don’t have nearly as much school spirit. They like their school just fine, but they don’t understand my enthusiasm for wearing school colors and going to pep rallies and all that. One girl is only going to today’s pep rally because it’s scheduled during 6th and 7th periods and is mandatory. She is, in fact, irritated mightily that she’s missing her favorite classes to go to something she has no interest in. The other teen has a bit more spirit and is decked out today in top-to-bottom black and orange. I am hoping that both girls will have some sort of epiphany about pep rallies and school spirit, but I’m not counting on it.

We all know that high school is a difficult time. What with the raging hormones and the general awkwardness everyone goes through. Plus there’s that whole figuring out who I am thing. Most of them think they are really, really different from their peers — not knowing that everyone is struggling in some way.

Some people have a really hard time with high school, some have an easy time, and some are somewhere in between. Some people don’t let the screen door hit their butts as they leave after graduation — speeding away so rapidly that the dust trails don’t settle for days. Others love high school and never really leave it afterward — continuing to hang out with their high school friends for the next 20, 30, or more years.

Generally speaking, I had a good high school experience. I wasn’t a super popular cheerleader or anything like that, but I had a great group of friends and activities that I enjoyed, and I wasn’t bullied. I am not scarred by events from nearly 30 years ago. I’m still in contact with various people of that era. (Thank you Facebook, for making this possible.) I don’t look back at that era and groan or weep.

It will be interesting to see what my girls think about today’s pep rally and tonight’s football game with all its related Homecoming activities. And it will be interesting to watch them go through high school — not just to see the women they are becoming, but also to see what (if any) school pride they will develop. And after that, I’ll be curious to see which of their current friends they will remain close to and what their post-graduation feelings about this time of their lives will be.

What about you? What were your high school years like? How do you feel about them now? Did you have school spirit?


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8 Responses to Spirit

  1. Cassi says:

    Oooh. ZERO school spirit here, I’m afraid. I was pretty much an outcast in high school, and hated it. I never attended a football game, would never have been seen dead at a pep rally, and had two good friends -one much more intellectual than me, and one in the theater group. I was asked to a prom once, but didn’t go, felt ugly pretty much always, never had the right clothes or accessories. I lived in books, and was much happier there.

    College, even though I didn’t go until a few years after high school, was such an amazing relief! People were actually interested in what you thought, rather than what you looked like. Not that I had a lot of school spirit in college either -I was so pissed off at how the college used “amateur” athletes and then threw them out into the world physically harmed and without a degree, I was certainly not going to be rah-rah about the college sports (I attended The University of Michigan, so sports are sort of a big thing).

    So . . . yeah. That.

  2. bdaiss says:

    I was middle of the road. I played enough sports and was involved in enough activities to have my fair share of school spirit. I did however also tend to have many friends from neighboring towns and so didn’t get into the rivalries. I did have a strong dislike for our school colors (purple and white) and got to the point where I didn’t wear that color for YEARS afterwards. I think my first purple clothing purchase was a mere 3 years ago. Like you, high school wasn’t anything I’m traumatized by. But I also didn’t like it AT ALL. As a bookworm come athlete come thespian, I really didn’t “fit” anywhere. I didn’t understand the cliques or the drama (good grief, my graduating class was 60 kids. We’d all gone to school together since kindergarten. Why would some no longer be friend worthy?), and I actually wanted to learn something. I left and never looked back. I didn’t keep in touch with anyone from high school until Facebook came along.

    My kids will attend a school even smaller than the one I went to (my son’s class is around 35 kids). I’ve been proud of what I’ve seen and the support I see the high school kids give each other. And our town? School spirit runs in rivers down the street. Even the elementary school kids go to the pep rallies. And they all learn the school song starting in kindergarten.

  3. jen_alluisi says:

    Middle school was traumatizing. High school was bearable. I was in concert, marching and jazz band, and therefore a certain degree of school spirit was required. I went to lots of football and basketball games and plenty of dances. I was not popular - nor did I dress or act like the popular kids - but I also wasn’t ridiculed or bullied most of the time. I went to a small high school and had been in preschool and elementary school with most of the kids in my school. I had a solid group of friends. All of that said? You could not pay me to do it again. I much prefer my life now, thanks. And I was friends with plenty of non- or even anti-school-spirit folks in high school - I get where that comes from. I don’t think it will phase me if my kid is that way when she’s a teen (though since she’s about 12 years away from my worrying about it, I guess I shouldn’t act as though I’m sure of that!).

  4. Jenny says:

    I was a band nerd for a year, loved it. Different school the next year, and the next. Last year split between 2 classes in HS and classes at the college. One of my kids had no use for school and dropped out until she got her GED and went to college, the others liked it fine. I have very mixed feelings.

  5. Patience says:

    I went to a small all-girls school and while I don’t recall being particularly school-spirited, I definitely identified as a “Sacred Heart girl”-even moreso now that I’m an alumna. My former classmates and I were outraged last year when the Bishop of Buffalo forced our head of school to stop publishing same-sex marriage announcements in our newsletter. I had been proud to be a graduate of an independent Catholic school that wasn’t afraid to be accepting of gay marriage, so it really was a blow for me and for others. So I guess I have spirit for my school, but since I’ve had such terrible experiences with CHS, I can’t imagine my kids having any spirit for that place.

  6. Lovely post. I did have school spirit. I was on drill team and went to all of the football games and other events. I wasn’t a popular or a cheerleader, but I liked going to school. My class colors were red and white. I still have my drill team shoes (red and white oxfords with a crepe sole), and my jacket. I worked at Burger King and a local bakery when I was in high school. I saved up enough money to buy a class ring, which I still have. I spent a great deal of time deciding whether to put in the October birthstone or the high-school color red stone. In the end, I decided to go with the red stone because the purpose of the ring was a school keepsake. A future ring could be a birthstone, but my class ring would have the class color. So, yes, school spirit.

  7. Little Miss Sunshine State says:

    I was a marching band/chorus geek/serious student for 3 years then started dating my jock boyfriend/now husband. My circle of friends got much wider and I’m still friends with people from both groups. 40 years later I can’t see what he saw in me because I was so inside my head all the time.

    I had zero self-esteem. I found out many years later that other people wanted to be my friend or date me but thought I was stuck up. I just never talked to people or looked them in the eye because I was so self-conscious all the time.

    I did have a lot of school spirit. Pretty much everyone did because it was such a small school… only about 400 students total. We had pep rallies and every home game we had a parade to the field… it was about a 1/2 mile from the school and there was a dance every Saturday night after the game.

    That being said, it was the 70′s and all my teachers were pretty much Hippies and my education was lacking in a LOT of classical information. In History we skipped from the Civil War straight to Civil Rights! Our Senior English class was Films of the Twentieth Century. In German we learned a LOT of German Beer Drinking songs.

  8. There’s a reasonable amount of spirit at Happyland High, probably due in large part to the success of various sports programs. I was surprised at the number of kids who participate, it does have a good communal feel. But it’s also a school of about 500 or so kids, and I think a smaller size lends itself more to school spirit.

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