Pride: The Mysterious Element.
Junius H. Rose High School is a fairly normal public high school. That begs the question, “What is a ‘normal’ high school?”
A few weeks ago, I talked with both of my parents and my sister about the high school I attended. We discussed how the school went from a powerhouse both in academics and athletics to a middle-of-the-road high school in just a few short years (although JHR experienced a decline, it is quickly on the rebound under the watch of its new and energetic principal). Even through this decline, JHR remained one of the most popular schools in the county. Most students at JHR graduate on time and are on the path to attending a four-year college. Many student athletes receive scholarships to play sports in college. Each senior class consistently pulls in thousands of dollars in scholarships. Rose was in fact so sought after at one point that numerous parents bent rules and used relatives’ addresses in order to enroll their children at JHR. The school I teach at in Charlotte is quite the opposite. It is perhaps one of the most notorious schools in the district and parents constantly try to pull their children out of the school. I disagree with the general consensus that my school is a “weak” school because there are many outstanding programs at the school which set it apart from any other school in the district, perhaps even in the nation. Discussing this with my parents really made me think about what makes one high school more appealing than another.
The first distinction that comes to mind is a predominance in extracurricular activities. While students should be focused and driven to do well in the classroom, the activities they are a part of after school most likely motivate them to come to school and to become passionate about something (whether that is football, photography, or law). Extracurricular activities also foster teamwork and relationship-building among students. The reach of successful extracurricular activities at a high school can do wonders for the pride students carry for the school.
A consistent voice throughout the school and community also explains why some schools are more appealing than others. Rose is constantly supported by local media, restaurants, and businesses. The community backing means a lot to students at JHR and helps create a sense of pride at the school. More importantly, the greater Pitt County community has a certain vision and expectation for what JHR students are capable of. JHR students are students that attend college, excel in athletics, and that give back to the community. This expectation has caused students to subconsciously uphold themselves to a certain standard.
Last but certainly not least, academic success sets schools apart from one another. Schools with honors classes are great. However, schools with AP or IB programs get way more attention than those with honors classes. Schools that push students to perform at these higher levels of rigor create the upper echelon of public schools. As a result of having higher academic standards, students feel empowered with knowledge and with a sense of possibility for what their future has in store.
In each of the three items I mentioned, school pride has been mentioned either directly or indirectly. Extracurricular activities, community support, and academic success each help foster school pride. Creating a sense of pride amongst students for their accomplishments and their successes, whether they are big or small, really helps distinguish a “great” high school from a “normal” one.
As a teacher, I am finding myself more and more committed to building pride at my school. Not only pride among students for the school they attend, but pride as a staff that leads students to success and pride in the community for the rich traditions and culture that my school has fostered for decades. Each day, I am committed to helping this once rampant pride to the forefront and bringing my school back to the powerhouse it used to be. One day very soon, it will return to its full potential.