Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Once a year my high school had the football pep rally. My friends and I were not athletic. We were more the music and theatre geeks. We attended the pep rallies, because, they were required and we weren’t the sort who cut classes. But we endured them. They were not for us. I’m not sure what a pep rally meant to inspire school spirit would have looked like for us. Monty Python skits?

At the beginning of each school year in Howard County we see social media coverage of pep rallies at every school. But not for students; they are for faculty, staff, and admin.   I have seen some skepticism and snark from those in the community finding the rah-rah atmosphere distasteful. They wonder why all this hoopla is necessary. They find it cultish.

Well, there certainly is precedent in schools for pep rallies and school spirit assemblies. That culture already exists. To use it as a way to inspire school professionals at the beginning of the year is not so big a stretch. While it may seem as though large groups of paid professionals are being assembled in matching shirts to say “we’re the best”, I think that assessment misses the mark.

I’d say the underlying message it, “You can do it.” And “We can do it.”

Work loads for teachers increase every year. Along with this, teachers are chronically underpaid. Nobody wants to fund their pensions. Even funding their healthcare hasn’t always been a priority. Almost all purchase materials to support their classrooms about of their own pockets. They go in early, stay late, take work home, work weekends. Every year they encounter students whose needs are greater. They are asked to do more with less. When they push for fair treatment in the workplace and equity for their students, they are dismissed as union thugs or as representatives of a special interest group.

Once a year we get these hard working, highly qualified folks together and the band plays and the cheerleaders cheer and the superintendent gives an inspirational speech. Think of it as community building. “We’re all in this together.”

The unspoken message is that this is an impossible job we are asking them to do. Many days will feel, physically and emotionally, like they are crawling on their hands and knees. Teachers come back each year knowing this, and choosing to do it anyway. It’s what they do.

So, for one hour in the Fall, it’s all about them. It may look dopey from the outside. We can’t possibly know what it feels like from the inside. But, if it gives them even one small spark of joy to carry with them through the days ahead, it is a worthwhile investment indeed.

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