Can a typically academically focused high school still be fun and enjoyable?
Expectation vs reality
Movies and shows portray high school as a place with no stress, no pressure and constant amusement, but students, parents and teachers quickly realize that that is not reality.
As a school that is known for being academically competitive with lots of pressure on the students, the aspect of being a fun school is sometimes lost. “I expected high school to be made of Friday night football games with every student cheering the team on. Instead, at my first football game, most students left at half time and the stress of school work and extracurriculars makes it so that people can’t attend many of the events,” freshman Josh Erd said.
Different aspects make a school considered ‘fun,’ including spirit, attendance at school events, interesting activities in classes, involvement in the school and the inclusiveness of the community.
When an entire school dresses up for spirit week and comes to support the athletic teams and performing arts performances, people feel more pride in the school and therefore have more spirit. “Being involved makes shool fun because it makes school seem more like a community rather than just a place to learn and leave. It brings people together and gives them an opportunity to bond over something,” junior Zara Chavoshi said.
In the classroom
Activities in the classroom can make a school be perceived as more fun. When a class has more hands-on work and students are encouraged to ask questions and speak their mind, they are more inclined to participate and get more benefits out of the class. “A positive environment is one in which students feel a sense of belonging, trust others, and feel encouraged to tackle challenges, take risks, and ask questions,” according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Being involved in both in-school activities and extracurriculars develops a greater sense of community in a school. When students, teachers and parents come out to support the school, it is a much more enjoyable experience for the whole. “I want to see staff, students, parents joining in. To be able to come out to our events in full force and to really publicize all the good things that are happening with in the community and with our students,” Principal Kimberly Boldon said.
A fun school is not comprised of only a small portion of the school engaging, but of the entirety of the community supporting each other and feeling welcomed. “One of the things that was my goal when I started being involved with SGA was to make sure that SGA was reflective of the entire student body. I wanted people who went here to be able to see themselves in this group,” social studies teacher Fevronia Cresham said.
Benefits for the community
Being a fun school comes with benefits that help the community have a better mentality and more relaxing school year. If a school has fun aspects, it can create a better environment that allows students to want to learn more and become more involved in school activities. “Students learn better when they view the learning environment as positive and supportive, provides relevant content, clear learning goals and feedback, opportunities to build social skills, and strategies to help students succeed,” according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
By being a welcoming and inclusive school, the community comes together more cohesively, providing a more inclusive and open space for students and staff. When the community is more engaged, it is more effectively able to help the students with their futures and their mentality. “To have a sense of community, to have a sense of belonging, to have a sense of purpose and shared common experiences I think is really important developmentally for what we do and how we go about our time here together,” Boldon said.
Relationships in school
Being a fun school helps students and teachers be more enthusiastic about helping each other and valuing the relationships within the school. Relationships in a school are vital in creating a beneficial environment to promote health and safety by putting trust in one another and supporting each other. “I think it’s about the relationships, the people, the caring, the people being involved and celebrating other people,” Boldon said.
If a school creates a positive environment in which students feel excited to learn and participate in school activities, that attitude will reflect in their everyday lives. This creates a happier environment overall, which allows for each individual to be content and promotes the health needs of the students. “By providing enough positive experiences to counteract the negative, we can help students avoid getting stuck in a ‘negative spiral’,” according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
This school incorporates over 100 extracurricular options and is welcoming, which make the school fun, but it also includes low amounts of spirit and is academically competitive, which make it less fun. Among the schools in Montgomery County, this school is known as one with little spirit and attendance at events.
The opportunities available
Because this school has an extensive list of clubs to join and involved athletic and performing arts programs, every student can participate in an extracurricular of their interest and find a way to enjoy their time at school. By joining these extracurricular, students have the option to meet new people and build new friendships. This also makes the school welcoming and inclusive to all students. “You’re going to find a group that you’re going to gel with and people are always ready to welcome people in,” Cresham said.
Being in class can often be boring and it can become hard to concentrate for such a long period of time. Students need more interactive activities in class to have a more positive impact on the learning environment. “I notice that when I listen to teachers lecture all day I get bored and I become reluctant to want to go to class but when we do more hands-on activities in class I have more interest in going,” Erd said.
Spirit at our School
The spirit level at this school is lacking, especially compared to other schools in the area. Only a portion of the school dresses up for spirit week and people leave pep rallies early, creating an unenergetic environment. “In the time I have been at Wootton, I haven’t been exposed to the most spirit. People don’t seem to care that much about how spirited they are and I think that makes school less exciting,” Chavoshi said.
There’s little support
Similarly, students, parents and teachers don’t often go support each other at sports games or school performances. Often times, it is because people are too busy with homework or their own extracurriculars to attend other events, leaving many events without any audience or fans. Morale is then lowered and the community feels less pride in the school. “At my baseball games, very few people come to support us and cheer us on while we play and I feel like I notice that at most school activities,” sophomore Jack Mehler said.
How we can improve
There are ways the community can work on making the school a more fun and enjoyable place. This school has begun to implement some projects that make it more fun, but there is still work to be done.
Wellness periods and Patriot Time have helped to reduce the amount of stress students feel by giving them a time to get some of their homework done so they are less stressed after school or just a time to relax during the day. “I do worry about the stress level… that adds this other dynamic of it being sometimes too much… but I do feel like we made and continue to make a lot of progress,” Boldon said.
When people are more outgoing and have a more accepting attitude with other students, they are more likely to be spirited and welcoming. This creates more friendships between students and less a judgmental attitude. For example, if one student is to dress up very spirited on a spirit day, other students will feel more comfortable doing so and therefore be more inclined to dress up, thus creating a chain reaction. “Stepping out of your comfort zone and being more open minded is one way to make our school a better place,” Chavoshi said.
Students and teachers need to have stronger relationships within the school in order to have a more trusting community. This is done by being more outgoing and welcoming of any type of discussion. “I think relationships with peer to peer, students and staff are very important in this community,” Boldon said.