From the Superintendent's Standpoint March 2012
March 26, 2012
The Beach Boys Were Right: Be True to Your School!
“When some loud braggart tries to put me down
And says his school is great
I tell him right away
Now what’s the matter buddy
Aint you heard of my school
Its number one in the state…”
(from the Beach Boys song “Be True to Your School”)
I recently had the opportunity to visit with some members of our community who were concerned about school spirit and the bigger issue of promoting pride in our community. During that conversation I began to think about why school spirit is important. After giving the issue some thought, I think that school spirit is important because it contributes to the perception of our school and community, both locally and beyond the boundaries of our school district.
When we perceive that we have an excellent school and community and are willing to share our pride with others that builds not only our esteem for our school and community, but also helps to build a positive reputation for our school and community with those who do not have the fortune of living in such a great community.
Although showing school spirit is important for its own sake, I think that there are additional reasons to promote school spirit and community pride. School spirit and community pride likely have an impact that goes beyond our perceptions and impacts the members of the community in terms of quality of life and economic prosperity. For example, when we actively promote, rather than degrade our school and community, it increases the likelihood that others will want to live here. When the community attracts new residents who are looking to have a higher quality of life in a nice community such as ours, home values increase as people are willing to invest in a strong community. Although I am obviously not an economist, I would venture to guess that the economic impact of positive community perceptions goes far beyond home values and impacts a wide variety of economic indicators.
Unfortunately I believe one of the biggest challenges to building school spirit and community pride is that it is easy to engage in negativity and sarcasm. In particular, I think that social media has been a place where we are often rewarded psychologically for posting negative information about our community.
As an example, a Facebook “friend” of mine recently posted a beautiful photograph of her and her son. This wonderful photo was “liked” by one person and was received 2 “comments”. In other words, for posting the photograph my friend was affirmed by 3 people. In contrast, at about the same time this same friend posted a criticism of the City of Scottsbluff regarding the recent railroad crossing repairs. In this post this person used some fairly inflammatory language and hyperbole in directing criticism at the city. This posting was affirmed by 25 “likes” and 21 “comments.” For posting something critical or negative my friend was affirmed by 46 people. Another way of looking at this is that my friend received 15.3 times as much affirmation for her negative post than she did for sharing a wonderful family portrait!
As humans we gravitate toward recognition and affirmation. I believe that when we receive affirmation for being negative we are more likely to engage in the same negative behavior again in the future.
So what does this have to do with school spirit and community pride? I think that one of the best ways that we can all work to increase school spirit and community pride is to work to be positive and full of praise for our students and fellow community member to the greatest extent possible. This can be done through our thoughts, actions, and postings on social networks.
Do we still need criticism and to address issues? Of course we do. Constructive criticism often leads to new or different ways of doing things and improvements in our schools and communities. Many times we don’t realize there is a problem in our school or community unless someone voices a concern. I do believe that going to the source of conflict is much more productive than airing our grievances and complaints on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media site. After all, what we perceive we often believe. When we create a positive perception about our school and community, people will believe in the good things our school community has to offer. When we create a negative perception, people will believe that, too.
I know that when our graduates leave our school in a couple of months and go to colleges, the military, and the workforce the perceptions that people have of our school and community will proceed our graduates in many ways. Hopefully by working together and showing school spirit and community pride we can send our graduates out knowing that when a student comes from the Bayard school community that they have come from a great school and a great community. This can happen when we work together to follow the advice of the Beach Boys and “be true to” our school and community.
Finally, I would encourage community members to go to the school’s website (www.bayardpublicschools.org) and to “like” the school’s new Facebook page. We are continuing to work to build our online presence as a way to communicate and promote the many successes of our students.
As always, if you would like to share success stories about Bayard Public Schools or if you have ideas about how we can work together to make our school even better, please call the school or send me an email.