School Spirit, Fizzled Out?

Wacky Week 2017– ISL took a trip to the airport with air hostesses, boarding gates, departure announcements flying through the school. 2018– ISL was planted in the midst of dancing t-rexes in Jurassic park. 2019– Christmas festivities came full fledged in May. 


When I first heard that Wacky Week wasn’t going to be competitive, I thought that we wouldn’t have the same level of chaos and celebration again… at least, in my secondary school experience. Maybe the trend had already started? Speaking to those around me, I found that some hold similar opinions on the dwindling level of school spirit in inter-year group events.


If you’re new to the school, I hear you wondering where the basis of my claim lies. In fact, I could give you some very convincing evidence.


Only recently, the legendary sports day was reduced to its name: a day of sports. Before the change, the event brought together the primary and secondary year groups in a day-long series of competitions. Teams were chanting, contestants appeared in warrior-like facepaint, and crowds filled every corner of the football field or gym. Students were living and breathing ISL school spirit. 


Coming back to an event I mentioned earlier: Wacky Week is no longer competitive either. Perhaps the wow-factor of dressing up and planning an extravagant performance fades slightly in the Y9 to Y11 period. However, I must credit the StuCo team for linking this year’s Wacky Week to the existing Homeroom Hustle competition– it most certainly elevated student enthusiasm. 


Highlighting these two examples without mentioning the word “Covid” is impossible. The pandemic was a major setback, creating a two-year void in communication with students in our own year groups, let alone others– school spirit had to be pushed to the back seat. 


Competition and Covid are not the only factors that impact spirit though. Partly because our school is constantly growing and changing with every year, there are countless clubs, services and extracurricular opportunities that go by in the blink of an eye. We only ever catch a glimpse of them through the morning notices. When it comes to choosing how to spend your afternoon – going to the art exhibition, watching a musical, or helping out in the ISL garden – there are so many options that we might be losing focus of each one. While the gears of student activity will not stop for a long time, we might need to slow things down a little and take time to fully appreciate the progress we’ve made so far. 


When was the last time you took a detour into a classroom of an ASA you don’t know much about, went to an arts performance (not because a sibling or friend starred in it), or visited a sports competition because… well, why not?


Yes, I know. You have a tight schedule and things are getting busy this time of year, but is that going to change next year? Or the year after that? This is precisely what makes any time year groups have together precious to our community. 


Within year groups themselves, interactions might have changed. I know that in my own year group, a few have mentioned how separated people seem. However trivial this sounds, clique-y behaviour is very common in the cafeteria seating. That seat you choose on the first day at the end of August somehow has your name invisibly engraved on it, calling you back almost every recess and lunch. On the flip side, you might spend time with an unfamiliar group of people, giving you the chance to grow closer and even support these people at a later date.


Because I have been going on about the cracks in our school community, I now want to turn this around and look at the incredible efforts going on to improve relationships. 


In homeroom, before the Y13s’ final day, each year group hosted graduating students who joined ISL in that year– for example, Y13s who arrived in Y11 engaged in a nail-biting dodge ball game with the current Y11s. Previously this year, the Y12s and Y13s joined homeroom sessions to discuss all things DP, which was a nice change to Thursday mornings. 


Another memorable event that united students was the Beauty and the Beast production in March. The six month-long journey appears to have fostered new friendships among the cast and crew, while offering an incredible final performance for the rest of the ISL community to enjoy. 


And last but not least, the Homeroom Hustle kept our hopes high throughout the year with new challenges each month. To finish it off came Wacky Week– quite clearly taken over by the Y13s in their inflatable hippo and lion suits for the Madagascar theme. 


Drawing closer to the present, the most recent spike in school spirit was the Y13 leavers day. It’s going to be hard to forget the slip ‘n slide, live music and furniture-stuffed hallway– not to mention the famous teachers’ leavers video. 


Thinking of all these occasions that have encouraged community interaction, I now know that I wasn’t considering the full picture when I first thought that school spirit was wavering. School spirit hasn’t been falling apart or introducing any cracks in the community. It has been a constant across all year groups even in the face of bumps along the way. These past few years have challenged us and put our ability to stay strong to the test. 


When you soon step into the foyer for the 60th anniversary festivities, or walk into a sports tournament, know that you have the chance to bring the chaos, bring the celebration, and show some school spirit.