So as school crept closer, I found myself and many others reflecting, writing, and sharing all that got us excited for the first day of school. Wonderful ideas around vision, around what is possible, and around caring for our students filled my timeline and I ate it up. This was my 25th opening day, and I still approach each one with energy and enthusiasm. However it is another element present on the calendar this time of year that gets me really pumped. Friday Night Lights! And as the end of the first week of school drew closer, I couldn’t think of any better way to wrap it up then a home football game.
Texas is known for football and in Houston it dominates the weekends in the Fall. Now I am certainly a sports fan, and spending time at school games is an easy thing for me to do. The passion and commitment that our coaches, parents, and community members bring to our student-athletes is strong. There is something special about rooting for a team that brings people together. If you’ve ever gone to a professional baseball game and high-fived the stranger sitting next to you after a home run, or embraced a group hug for your entire row after the winning touchdown, then you know what I am describing.
Yet I love high school football games for another reason. After the weeks of practice, the prepping of uniforms, and the big pep rally, it is time for 3500 students and 250 faculty/staff to come together as one with the greater neighborhood/city. I believe Friday Night Lights is the exemplar of what community means for a comprehensive high school.
The sentiment I always share is that it is a chance to see many elements of our school together in one place, at one time, with one focus. Perhaps it is the 50 players on the field flanked by 10 student trainers and managers, or the 18 cheerleaders leading the crowd. Maybe it’s the 45 member drill team or the near 100 piece marching band that pumps up the halftime show. Possibly the 8 Birdkeepers that are assigned to guard our mascot – a tradition nearly 50 years old – or the 12 elected Booster Club officers that run the flags after each score is what ties it together. Regardless of the group that brings you out that night, we are talking about more than 250 students united. Each of them with a role to support our school and show their pride in our school colors.
My point is that a school is more than just what happens inside four walls from 7:40am – 3:15pm. The evidence is clear that extracurricular activities are vital toward students remaining both physically and mentally engaged during the day. And it is many of those very programs that tie communities together. They allow us to remember our history while celebrating the present. Having something for us all to rally around allows the individual interests and passions of our students and our educators to flourish. And as the opening kickoff approached for Texas HS football, each team, each school, and each community had a moment filled with nothing but hope. An optimism that anything is possible.
So as I wrapped up this week and watched others head to their cars with smiles yet exhausted shoulders, I found it easy to feel pepped up as it was game night. And as I parked at the stadium and exited my car, I could hear the band playing a familiar tune and the PA announcer declaring a first down. As I greeted the familiar faces at security and spoke to our ticket takers, I felt a peace come over me. Grabbing my hot dog, popcorn, and bottle of water, I smiled at parents, said hello to students, and found my usual seat. The first week of school was over and I was in my happy place.
What events at your school best represent your school community?