Chances are, if you’ve made it this far into the school year, you’ve experienced at least a handful of school spirit days — if not entire weeks — of dressing up. If you are in the elementary school season of parenting, there’s the 100th day of school, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Halloween, pajama day(s), and various other milestones to celebrate. My first grader has, in fact, had over 10 days of dressing up so far.
And I know what many of you are thinking, “Ugh, not another school spirit day. Where am I supposed to get another outfit for this kid to celebrate a made-up milestone?!” But I challenge you on this. As a high school teacher, I am witness to students who maintain school spirit and those who shun it. Those who continue to celebrate throughout their teenage years are the ones who are more enthusiastic about school and learning in general. They are invested in their school community and take pride in the culture of the building.
It may not be readily apparent, but schools help foster community within their walls through things like spirit days and weeks. Everyone dresses up to celebrate 100 days of learning. Everyone comes together to celebrate Valentine’s Day by wearing red. Grinch faces cover T-shirts and sweatshirts to celebrate… the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes in one day! Helping and encouraging our children to participate, rather than feeling annoyed and frustrated by these days, teaches them to recognize their school community as important and valuable.
Those irritable moments when you discover at 9 p.m. that your kid has to wear a Seuss-inspired outfit the next morning are completely justified — but they do not need to be shared with your child. I encourage those of you who view school spirit weeks and days with disdain and annoyance to revise your opinion.
Support and celebrate your child being a part of a bigger community. Improvise: Grab a plain T-shirt and some Sharpies and design your own shirt celebrating Flag Day (just make sure to put something between the layers of fabric so the markers don’t bleed through to the back of the shirt!). Or, stock up: I always try to grab clothing items after a holiday, when they are heavily discounted, in a size larger, to prepare for the following year (a Grinch shirt will always get used in elementary school!). Or just make do with what you’ve got — a blue T-shirt and a red pillowcase tied like a cape (plus a little imagination) make a fantastic superhero.
Whatever you do, or however you celebrate, I implore you to encourage your children to enjoy school spirit days. It may not seem like much, but when everyone shows up dressed as their favorite superhero, or toting anything but a backpack, the excitement and enthusiasm is contagious.
By the time many students get to my high school classes, they are teenagers and no longer excited to participate in these days. Part of me wonders if it’s because spirit days are treated by many as an imposition during childhood.
I know that isn’t always the case, but I plan to approach every spirit day and week as a huge celebration for my kids — because I want them to maintain that attitude of excitement when they are older. I hope my children learn to love their school community and feel like they are part of it — and I know that celebrating school spirit days now will contribute to that goal.