Tradition is Collaboration
In starting this new school, every day is a lesson in coordination and collaboration. This week’s prime example goes to my attempt to start the creation of the student section at our first ever home game.
I’m four weeks into the school year and the job that is proving the most educational for me is being co-sponsor of the Student Leader Team with the wonderful Mrs. Niemerowicz. In this role, I get to help guide the mechanisms that support student voice in our school. That’s a fancy way of saying I’m helping organize pep assemblies and dances.
We’re four weeks into the school year and as fast as I can get one event figured out the next one seems to be upon me. The Student Leader Team (SLT) meets weekly at lunches on Tuesday. I’ve been able to have four of those meetings so far and they have primarily been housekeeping items. I am literally running right now to make sure I’m just the one step ahead.
As our home games started to creep up on me, I realized we needed to set some theme nights to get students involved and engaged with our student section. At Tuesday’s meeting, a group of our student leaders were tasked with coming up with our theme nights. The first theme I suggested was a white out with our orientation shirts because it was the one shirt we knew all students had.
In a four day week that is packed right now, the mechanisms are moving very slowly. I didn’t get an announcement in until the following day (Wednesday) and we didn’t get posters made until Thursday. The game was Friday. Social media is my friend in communication right now, so I put out the information there. Then came Thursday night…
I wake up pretty early. I’m much more of a morning person because I can get more done without the external experiences weighing on me. Because I wake up early, I also go to be early. I was in bed by 10pm Thursday night. At about 10:30pm I got a phone call, so groggily, I got up and answered it. No one was there, so I hung up and fell back asleep. Then the phone rings again. I answer it again worried something was wrong somewhere. Nothing but giggles on the other end. Still half asleep, I hang up and notice there are a bunch of Instagram notifications of weird comments on my White Out post. I try not to check social media at night and I fell back asleep figuring I’d check it out in the morning.
The next morning the comments were gone, but I was able to remember that they had to do with us being communists and other assorted dumb thoughts. Weird, but I moved on. First period came around and my students were in full force sharing that we weren’t doing a white out any more that a student had decided to do a tie-dye theme and posted it on Snapchat. My initial reaction was defensiveness out of knowing I should have been more prepared. Buy-in takes time and it takes explanation. By putting out the white out information without explanation or buy-in, I should’ve known there would be confusion.
We now had two competing messages and the potential for students to end up feeling unincluded. If they didn’t have tie-dye were they supposed to show up? If they did have tie-dye were they going against something else?
After a bit of processing with the ever-wise Lindsey Solano, I approached the situation with a different lens. Tradition is about feeling included. We like traditions because we get to see ourselves as part of something bigger. Building traditions for a brand new school is going to be a scratchy process. Rather than find the adversarial tone, I opted to lean into the confusion and work with the student who was leading the change (he clearly has a voice in the student body!). The Way of the Raven is, after all, about collaboration.
I sought out the student in class and pulled him to talk with him. I walked through how we arrived at our vision and he shared with me how he got to his. We were able to see through the miscommunication and in that moment, build a system to promote our new tradition. Instead of choosing one, I suggested we put out a joint message - tie-dye or white out, it didn’t matter, just come fill the student section. I also engaged the student in helping us choose and communicate our theme nights for the rest of the season.
The balance will continue to be a struggle as I work to stay just one step ahead. Through all of the rush though, it will be important to remember that sometimes the best way to go fast is slow down. By making sure the relationships are built and the buy-in is secured, then the planning will move much faster. Student leadership is about teaching students how to respond to the needs of their peers by listening to them and then using their experience, knowledge, and skills to provide programs that support those needs. This was our first lesson in this and I can’t wait to debrief on Tuesday.