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School spirit at NYC iSchool

Marlyatou Barry, Reporter

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SCHOOL COLORS

The University of Wisconsin is particular about expressing the colors of their school as they are adamant about referring to the hue of red in their logo as cardinal and the white simply as an accent. Cardinal and white have been associated with the University long before Bucky the Badger became their renowned mascot. The colors were accepted as the ones to represent the school since the 1880s, but they are not sure how that came to be. Although the school doesn’t know how the cardinal and white became the school colors, they have found that the colors have been a constant throughout their history. For example, the university’s first student run newspaper, started in 1892, was called the The Daily Cardinal.  University of Wisconsin students now sport the bold cardinal and white with pride.

The University of Michigan’s history with their school colors is just as complex as that of Wisconsin. It began when “a ribbon of deep blue was attached to the diploma of an Elisha Jones,” in 1859. However, the school colors weren’t formally chosen until a group of students gathered and officially decided that the school’s colors would be azure blue and maize, a shade of yellow. Michigan’s athletic teams have been representing their school by wearing azure blue and maize attire for about 100 years making it one of the most recognizable college colors in history.

School colors gained prominence at the start of the 20th century. Schools across the nation adopted their own school colors to distinguish themselves from other schools. Students then began sporting their school’s colors as a way of showing pride for the school they attended. At rallies and school sport games, students even paint the colors of their school on their faces. Some contribute students sporting their school colors at games to a higher success rate. School colors provide a way for students to show pride and school spirit.

While school colors are very important and are a source of pride for other schools, NYC iSchool isn’t as concerned with symbolic colors that would set them apart from the other 1,700 public schools in NYC.

When 28 students were asked in a survey what the iSchool’s school colors are and what they symbolize, the majority were unsure. In fact, 75% of the students that responded to the survey said they didn’t know the iSchool’s colors and 25% of the students knew what the colors were, but didn’t know what they represented.

The school colors are green and blue, which are shown in some parts of the school and the school logo. While the colors don’t have a meaning, a few students in the founding class chose them because they thought the colors were pretty. Being that most students aren’t aware of the school colors, they don’t wear the colors to show pride and school spirit. The lack of awareness about the school colors of the iSchool is a sign that most students potentially have an indifferent attitude about the iSchool and that the iSchool doesn’t have school spirit.

Although several students didn’t know the school colors in the iSchool, while other schools utilize their school colors as a way to show school spirit,  school spirit is more complex than whether or not students know their school colors. School spirit is a multifaceted subject and the question of whether or not a school has school spirit cannot produce a yes or no answer, there is a spectrum.

WHAT IS SCHOOL SPIRIT AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

When one thinks of school spirit, their mind usually darts to big school sports games or rallies where students are wearing their school merchandise and cheering their team on. However, school spirit is more complex than sports games and rallies.

School spirit refers to the environment and sense of community in a school. School spirit has many aspects, one being a positive relationship between students and teachers. Students and teachers have to be comfortable with one another in order for the school community to work together and have a positive atmosphere. Another aspect is students working to cultivate a safe and positive environment. One of the more prominent factors of school spirit is active participation in all features of the school because it shows that students are invested in the community. Other essential factors are having pride for the school, feeling a sense of belonging, and events that encourage the community to come together.

School spirit is becoming a bigger area of focus for many schools as they find it impacts students and their experience at school. In fact, studies show that more and more departments of education around the world are placing emphasis on the importance of school spirit and the environment of a school as means of addressing the disparity in academic performance among different groups of students, student’s mental stability, and preventing bullying.   School spirit over time has become a very important part of a school and can improve the state of a school. Some even argue that school spirit is the core of a school and is a major factor of ensuring a successful school year. It is what makes an educational facility a positive and exuberant community. Some would even define school spirit as the heartbeat of a school, a central part that makes a school lively and have personality. School climate is becoming an increasingly important focus of schools because it shapes how people feel in school and how they perform. A positive school climate makes school a positive place for people to be and this will be reflected in the work they do and the effort they put into assignments. A positive learning environment empowers students to learn and do their best in school.

School spirit is often known as the essence of a school, but some individuals could be more spirited than others. When students in the iSchool were asked whether or not they have school spirit, the results were interesting. As a matter of fact, 32% of those who responded to the interview clearly conveyed that they had school spirit.

Another 32% said they don’t have school spirit. One student expressed, “Not really, I just go to school for my classes and leave,” demonstrating that they don’t involve themselves in the iSchool community beyond academics. Another student, Deja Thornton, a 11th grader, said “No, because it is not important to me.”

The last 36% didn’t have a definite answer; they either said they have school spirit sometimes or they didn’t feel like they had opportunities to express school spirit. Victoria Kupusta, a junior at the iSchool, stated, “When it is spirit week, I’ll usually wear what you should wear. I have also gone to the talent show, march madness basketball game, etc. [However,] I don’t really have school spirit because there aren’t many engaging events where I could show my pride for the iSchool.”

The lack of interesting events could be one problem, but others expressed another problem, lack of participation. Nikole Rajgor, in the 10th grade, said, “I’m pretty involved with school spirit but sometimes I don’t participate because if none of the students are showing support or spirit for an event, why should I go? It seems pointless.”

Although there are some students who want to participate and have school spirit, they seem to be discouraged by the little participation and pride they see in the iSchool. Wiktoria Zysk, a senior of the iSchool, conveyed similar feelings as she stated, “I believe I do have some spirit, though that spirit sort of diminishes when you see that not a lot of people like to participate in all these events.” Students feel conflicted because even if they are considering going to an event or participating in special schools days, since they don’t see their peers going to these events or school wide excitement for events, they don’t feel motivated or inspired to do so themselves.

When students at the iSchool were inquired as to whether or not they thought the iSchool as a whole has school spirit, students responded with thought-provoking answers. 20% said yes, the iSchool has school spirit. Maria Esposito, a senior, claimed, School spirit at the iSchool is pretty strong, we all come together for spirit week and do color wars and stuff like that, and No Shave November.” There are some students who believe that the iSchool has a sense of community and that the school comes together to celebrate their pride for the school.

60% of students who responded to the survey said yes, the iSchool has a little bit of school spirit. This seems to reflect the results from whether or not students thought they had school spirit. These students are expressing that there is some school spirit, but not a lot because there are not a lot of events and participation. The principal, Ms. Bailey stated, “I wish we had more school spirit…I think as a collective we’re not as strong.”

However, there are 20% of students who disagree completely and think the iSchool doesn’t have any school spirit. There could be many explanations to explain this like they don’t think the iSchool has enough school events or they feel like not enough people seem ardent in partaking in the school beyond learning. There are many conflicting perceptions of whether or not the iSchool has school spirit, but based on the wide range of answers, there is not a sufficient amount of school spirit.

HOW ACTIVE ARE STUDENTS IN THE ISCHOOL?

Many students in the iSchool believe that being active in the school is a core part of school spirit. In fact, most students believe that school spirit means being active and participating in school. According to Alliyah Logan, a junior, school spirit is “being active in school.”

Ellie Kauffman stated that it is “either being enthusiastic about your school or supporting it with events.” Students think that engaging in school through clubs and events is a way to present their school pride, as it happens, “among those who do participate in any extracurricular activities, about half (51%) say the reason that they are involved in these activities is so that they can be involved in their school and 34% said getting involved is a way to show their school spirit.” Extracurriculars are a compelling way for students to be involved in their school and show school spirit. Ultimately, active participation is an essential facet of school spirit.

The amount of active participation the iSchool possesses was assessed in a survey. Active participation can be characterized as being apart of clubs for a year or more, attending school events, and creating events that cultivate participation from students. When students were asked whether or not they were in clubs last year, 64% of the people who responded to the survey answered that they attended clubs and 36% said that they didn’t. A large amount of people took part in clubs, but there was still a vast amount that didn’t. Perhaps they feel that the clubs don’t interest them. However, students at the iSchool are given the opportunity to create their own clubs, but some students just may not feel inclined to. They could also feel like they don’t have time afterschool to participate in clubs.

When students were asked how many iSchool events they have attended over the course of their time in the iSchool, 88% said that they have attended more than one iSchool event and 12% said that they haven’t attended any. According to these results, the majority of students at the iSchool have attended a school event.

Many times clubs host events, and so students were asked whether or not a club they were apart of hosted an event, and if so, what the turnout was. 44% of respondents said yes, their club hosted an event, and there were many people, while 12% said yes, their club hosted an event, and there were a few people. This shows that there are events created by clubs which some level of involvement. Although there are a substantial amount of students who are active participants in school through clubs, attending events, and making events, there is still a substantial number of students who aren’t, meaning that the iSchool could work towards cultivating more involvement from students.

 

There was a fair amount of events hosted at the iSchool last year and less than half got a lot of participation. The no means that they weren’t apart of a club that hosted an event.

 

Although it has been revealed that while school spirit is not as strong as it can be at the iSchool, there are parts of the school that work very hard to cultivate school spirit. iCare is one of the most important clubs in NYC iSchool, for the participants in the club work very hard to create a sense of community in the iSchool. iCare began strictly as a community service club where the members would do things to supports the community outside of the iSchool. After a few years, iCare became a community service club and club that made events for the school. Wiktoria Zysk, who has been a member of the club for three years, describes it as “a community service based club. We do a lot of community service in school and outside of school to bring together the community.” She also stated that they do a lot of activities to bring the community together like, “organize spirit week… family feud events… we organize a lot of the school events that you see happening in school.” They create these events so students could feel encouraged to participate and feel like they are apart of the iSchool community.

The club’s goal and purpose, according to Wiktoria, is to, “lighten up the school environment… to like bring everybody together and closer, and so just have an overall great experience. I guess it’s just to brighten everyone’s day with the events we do and bring… [the community] together.”  The members of iCare work very hard to make sure the iSchool is a positive environment for everyone.

Many students appreciate the iCare club and what they do in and outside of the iSchool community. Alliyah Logan stated, “iCare is great. I love how they give back to the community. ” The principal, Ms.Bailey, supports iCare as she states, “I like the idea…  of iCare and iCare does a lot of things to try to get kids out,” however, she also states, “I wish we had more [participation].” Even though there are several events that are created, there isn’t not as much participation as there could be. Maria, who has been a member of iCare for four years now, expressed a similar concern when she stated, “I feel like if the entire school had school spirit, there would definitely be a lot more participation in school wide events and it would help to just raise overall awareness about the events we’re doing and make it a bigger effort.”

There could be several explanations as to why school events don’t get a lot of participation. As Maria stated, perhaps there isn’t enough awareness about these events. Sometimes posters are put up in the hallway or students come into classrooms or emails are sent out to the entire school to promote events, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to rally up people to attend.

Maria suspects that there is not as much students attending events as there could be because “underclassmen, usually because they’re scared to, don’t really participate as much in events and I’d love to be able to find a way to help them feel comfortable with participating in those events.” Possibly it could be because freshmans and sophomores don’t feel encouraged or motivated to take part in these events.

Wiktoria encourages students to participate in events because she thinks, “If everyone participated… I think we could be more lively and it’ll brighten everything up and it’ll make the community just closer and more fun to be apart of .” Participation in events will increase how close the iSchool feels to one another and will simply make people happier to be in school.

One of the areas of school spirit that the school could improve on is supporting the sports teams. Sports teams are not a widely talked about or popularized part of the iSchool. Most of the sports teams in the iSchool include students from the iSchool and the school they share the building with, Chelsea High School. Most of the sports are also PSAL sports, a sports program that works ensure that students in NYC public schools take part in sports because many NYC public schools don’t have enough space to accommodate sports. There are many sports including softball, bowling, soccer, and basketball.

The iSchool is not a big school, meaning that there isn’t a big basketball court or an outdoor field for softball, so many of the sports games take place outside of school.

Sports teams also don’t receive a lot of support from people in the iSchool. Jordan Hank, who is a part of the softball and bowling teams, states, “I can’t remember a single game where students came to support us in the entirety of the time I’ve been at this school and on these teams.” She explains that one reason is proximity to the school. She said, “The softball field we play at is close, but annoying to get to and out of the way for many people, so nobody really wants to come because of that. With bowling, we play at Whitestone lanes which is really far and it takes a little over an hour to get to sometimes, so nobody wants to come to those either.” Since the places they play at are hard to get to, many people don’t feel encouraged to go the games to support the teams.

Alliyah Logan states, concerning going to the sports games, “A lot of the games are far so I don’t go. It’s nothing I can do about it.”

Jordan also explains that another reason people don’t attend is that they don’t take the sports seriously, she voiced that “most people laugh when I mention the bowling team because nobody actually thinks of it as a competitive sport, or even a sport in general for that matter.” Students don’t regard the sports as legit and that could make them not consider going to the games. Also since sports teams at the iSchool are a mix of iSchool students and Chelsea students, the iSchool probably doesn’t feel as much pride for it because it is not completely their own.

The impact of the lack of support from students in school varies, according to Jordan, “With bowling it doesn’t really impact us because there’s so many of us on the team and we kind of act as our own cheerleaders and we give each other pep talks, it’s really cute actually, and there’s plenty of  people from Chelsea who come watch our games.” In bowling, the team members provide each other support and even though students from the iSchool don’t come, there are supporters from Chelsea High School.

On the other hand, Jordan states that it is a different situation with softball: “However with softball, we spend a lot of time beating ourselves up and we get really tired and I feel like if we had people supporting those games we’d wanna look all cool and good at sports or whatever so we might play better, but instead we lose like all the time.” Due to the lack of support the softball team gets, they don’t feel confident in themselves and attribute the lack of support to losing.

It can also make these students think that the iSchool doesn’t care about them or their sports teams don’t matter, when they do. It is very important for students to support other students in sports teams not just because it is an important part of school spirit, but also because the students on sports teams need to know that they are seen and that they matter. As stated before, when one envisions the epitome of school spirit they imagine a school football or basketball game with lots of students sporting their school gear and colors in  a football field or basketball court. The iSchool won’t ever have that because of the circumstances of the school, but they can get close. An important step to achieving this is getting students to support the teams because every student deserves to feel pride in the fact that they are in a sports team and that what they are doing is worth it.

One way the iSchool can rally support for sports teams is announcing the dates, times, and locations for games through emails or posters. Another possible solution is a club could be created in which participants attend sports games and cheer on their peers. Students could also, if the games are too far and they don’t have time after school, create posters supporting the teams and put them all over the school so people on the sports teams can feel a sense of support.

As stated before, events are important for increasing school spirit. As Wiktoria states, “School spirit is when the whole school participates in school wide events, whether it be spirit week or anything else.”

Nikole Rajgor, a sophomore, even defined school spirit as, “when a school community is unified together to celebrate or support one another.”

Although there are events like spirit week where all students can participate, there aren’t many school-wide events where the entire school comes together. For many of the events, only a certain amount of people can participate because there isn’t a big space to house a lot of people. The iSchool doesn’t have a lot of space for big-scale events to be held. Due to the lack of space, the entire school never meets together and they lack a sense of community. Two of biggest places in the iSchool are the commons and the gymnatorium. The commons is a big room on the fifth floor with offices of the faculty and several tables intended for students who need it before school, during lunch, or during office hours. The gymnatorium is a combination of an auditorium and a gym and a few events are held here. Most events are held in the commons, however, it is too small to accommodate the entire school.

Ms. Bailey stated, “I wish that we had a space where we could do one big assembly, but we don’t. Even if we went [to the gymnatorium], it doesn’t fit the whole school, so most we can do is one class at a time and even that is not great.” There are even students who attribute the lack of school spirit to the absence of spaces that could accommodate big events like Alliyah, a junior, who said, “I don’t know why many students don’t have school spirit.   Maybe if the school was larger with a field, then students would join in more.”

Wiktoria stated something similar, “I don’t know if it’s maybe because we’re a small school… It’s physically too small to do a lot of events you see happening at spirit week, like rallies, we can’t really do a rally because we don’t have a homebase for us to do it.” 

HOW SCHOOL SPIRIT IMPACTS THE ISCHOOL

Another essential aspect of school spirit is students’ relationship with teachers. Positive relationships between students and teachers have a lot of benefits including a positive environment and they can also impact students’ grades. A study conducted by “Moos and Moos (1978), who assessed school climate, found that students’ perceptions of relationships within the school (affiliation and teacher support) were positively correlated with their mean grades.”

When students were asked what their grades were, 76% responded that their grades were good and 24% responded that their grades were average. No students said that they have bad grades which can be a possible sign that students have a good relationship with teachers.

Many students have stated that they have an amazing relationship with teachers. Maria said “teachers are always available and they’re always a great resource, there’s always office hours, which I find is really helpful and it’s [a] friendly relationship.” Teachers provide things such as office hours, in which students can receive help from teachers or get a chance to redo mastery assignments.

Melany Delacruz, an 11th grader stated, “ The teachers are nice… Everyone is really nice.”

Other students find that they don’t always feel comfortable with teachers, when Alliyah Logan was asked whether or not she feel comfortable with teachers, she said, “yes, I do but only with a few. I think as a black student it’s hard for me to relate to the staff because it’s predominantly white. I think [sometimes] a lot of the staff say rude remarks because they don’t understand my heritage. I’m comfortable with hardly any of them. Like a lot of teachers especially the white males say a lot of offensive things but they don’t understand it’s offensive because they don’t understand students of color.” There are misunderstandings between teachers and students sometimes and according to Alliyah sometimes they are offensive. The staff also doesn’t reflect the diversity of the student body. There are rarely any teachers of color and that makes some students feel misunderstood and uncomfortable. Although teachers’ relatability to students doesn’t impact grades, it seems to impact how comfortable students feel in school.

Another major benefit of school spirit is confidence among students. Students with a lot of school spirit tend to have more self esteem than low-spirited individuals.

Students have stated that participating in clubs has allowed them to be more confident in themselves. Maria stated, “I definitely do think iCare makes me more confident. Ms. Colon has us really do things that push us outside of our comfort zones, that I otherwise might not have done if I wasn’t forced to.” Clubs like iCare that involve leadership and putting oneself out there makes people who weren’t used to putting themselves out there very confident with it.

Wiktoria also believes that iCare has boosted her self esteem as she said, “knowing me from like freshman year, I was this kind of shy kid, I never spoke up and here being a senior now, I’m more known throughout the school, I’m always participating, talking about iCare, doing these events and it has definitely built my confidence of public speaking and going up to people.”

When Alliyah was asked whether or not participating in clubs has her made more confident, she responded, “yeah…I do Model UN and it has helped with my speaking skills which gives me more confidence.” Therefore, participating in clubs and having school spirit increases one’s confidence.

Another benefit of school spirit is that it can make a community have a positive environment. Positive environments are essential to schools because they assure that students feel comfortable and happy in school. When students were asked in a survey whether or not they are a happy person in school, 24% said they are happy, 68% said they are a little bit happy, and 8% said they are not happy. This shows that the majority of the iSchool thinks that the community has a positive environment.

Maria stated, “the iSchool’s such a friendly place where everyone comes together. There isn’t any cliques and I find that it’s a very enjoyable place to be.”

Melany Delacruz agrees with the prior statement as she said, “I think the iSchool has a positive environment. The teachers are nice are the students get along pretty well, there’s not really a lot fights around here or anything like that. Everyone is really nice.”

Many students feel safe and happy in the iSchool, however, some students feel like the iSchool is not completely exciting. Alliyah Logan stated, “I think the ischool does have a good environment but its not interesting. I can’t relate to the majority of the kids.” The “blandness” of the iSchool could potentially be because of the lack of excitement surrounding most events.

NEXT STEPS

There is school spirit at the iSchool but not enough. The level of school spirit at the iSchool is caused by factors that can’t be changed such as the lack of space there is to have school-wide events, but is also caused by factors that can be changed such as participation, support of the sports teams, and promoting events that speak to students. School spirit has already shown to have a positive impact on students and how they experience school. Students are more comfortable with teachers, confident, and happy to be in school when there is school spirit. There is a lot of improvements that can be made to make the iSchool have school spirit. This includes finding a way to increase participation in events and clubs whether that be through more promotion of events or creating events that excite people. Another is to support the sports teams because they deserve to know that they are important. A very important part is for teachers to be more aware of what they say to make sure it’s not offensive and having a staff that reflects the diversity of the school.

School spirit, as stated previously, is very complex and does have many factors that contribute to, but Ms. Bailey defined in a way that sweetly captures its essence: “I think students could have more school spirit by taking care of themselves and taking care of the people around them. And we are sort of family here and you don’t necessarily get along with your family, but we have to push each other to be respectful and to learn about each other and to show up for one another, whether that be an after school activity or when your doing group work in a class or saying hi to someone who seems a little down. I think that’s school spirit.”

 

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School spirit at NYC iSchool