A friend of mine tells the story of hurrying to get his wife to the hospital on the night of their first child’s birth. He’d packed the car and double checked the birth plan, and he had just enough time for a quick shower before making the trip to the delivery room. As he pulled a fresh pair of boxer shorts from his dresser, he stopped. They were blue and gold plaid, the colors of Agoura, his high school’s rival. Without deliberation he put the boxers back in the drawer; there was no way he was going to welcome his first born into the world wearing blue and gold.
More than just a Beach Boys song, the notion of being true to your school is as real as a high school diploma. My friend was decades away from his own graduation, but that spirit held true.
For current students, this means wearing sweatshirts and spiritwear, cheering at games, and celebrating the successes of classmates in all kinds of pursuits associated with school. Here at San Dieguito High School Academy those pursuits include concerts, academic league, and robotics tournaments just as much as basketball games, tennis matches, and track meets. Students show Mustang pride when they laugh at Comedy Sportz, cry at drama performances, and dance at halftime of the Homecoming Flag Football game.
Not everyone experiences school spirit in the same way.
I distinctly remember a pep rally from my own high school days, when North Salem High School’s assistant principal kept my class of 1987 behind after the other students had left the gym to tell us that we had the worst school spirit he had ever seen.
Pacing in front of the bleachers where we sat, he shook his head and lamented how lousy we were as a group of students. To be honest, I don’t have a clue what prompted him; I don’t remember us acting any differently than we ever had, but as poster children for late 80s angst, perhaps our Run DMC attitudes didn’t mesh with his Beach Boys point of view.
Maybe it was that we weren’t even all Raising Hell; some of us dug Depeche Mode, Madonna, Black Flag, or The Bangles. We were a motley crew, proud of our differences, even as we were (in our own ways) proud to be part of our school. It’s just that we didn’t chant in unison as well as some of the other classes, any of the other classes, according to our scowling AP.
I think maybe what he didn’t realize was that school spirit doesn’t always wear a foam finger.
That day at the assembly, now nearly thirty years ago, has stuck with me. Now, as a principal, I do my best to realize that students have lots of ways to feel connected to their school, and that being true to your school can look different than waving a pom-pom.
Sometimes school spirit conforms to expectations: participating in an assembly, running for student government, joining a club. Sometimes it’s loving to eat lunch in the same spot on campus every day, helping to organize a can food drive, or writing for the school newspaper.
Here at San Dieguito High School Academy examples of innovative and interesting connections to our school are the rule, rather than the exception. From our Student Forum to our Homeroom Olympics, students connect to their school and each other in ways that continue to surprise and delight me. Exploring who you want to be and being supported along the way by peers and a school community takes as much spirit as my graduating class didn’t apply to chanting “Seniors-Seniors-Seniors!”
This funky spirit of kindness and acceptance feels different than the cheering section at a rally, and as I meet San Dieguito alumni I can see that it sticks. The love our current students have for their school inspires me, as does the passion I see in the past graduates who come to visit. I don’t know what color boxers they have on, but I do know that these Mustangs are true to their school.