Spirit Week: in every school I’ve taught before, this event has ranked right up there with Valentine’s Day, the day before Christmas break, or a full moon: something to be endured. The chance of chaos reigning supreme has always seemed absurdly high.
“Oh, and you are highly encouraged to dress up!” my coworkers told me last year. But what does this mean? I’m still supposed to teach, right? Some level of professionalism applies, surely?
Deciding to go for it, I took solace from Jane Austen, who wrote of my favorite literary heroine, “She had a lively, playful disposition that delighted in anything ridiculous.” Elizabeth Bennett, I imagine, would love Spirit Week at The Saint Constantine School.
Here are some of my favorite Spirit Week Dress-up moments from 2022-’23.
- During an unplanned fire drill on Hero Day, after every Marvel, Justice League, and King Arthur character had been accounted for, the minutes started to drag and a teacher gave the go-ahead for students to play. Perhaps because of the realization they were to miss another few minutes of class, several hundred superheroes burst out in a frenzy of joy, jousting with imaginary swords in the South Campus crater... just as the fire trucks rolled in. (There turned out to be no fire, thankfully.)
On Disguise Day, I become disoriented during my daily playground duty. Where were the other teachers? A ninja stealthily leaped in and out of the trees in Bragdon Wood. Were those Mr. Nicol’s eyes? A man with a refined looking goatee observed students on the basketball court. Was it a new substitute? Nope... it was Mrs. Peters. A slightly disheveled woman, with undone hair, mismatched socks, and poorly applied lipstick, stood near the Gaga Ball pit. Homeless, maybe? Should I call campus security? Oops... Mrs. Cogburn. A furry lion marched out to intervene between two third grade farm animals who were having a verbal altercation. The thrown-back lion mane revealed a stern Ms. Pittman. And a woman with tissues and cough drops affixed in her hair tended to Darth Vader with a skinned knee... Nurse Townley!
On Teacher/Student Swap Day, I entered Mays dressed as my own son in his signature look: navy polo over khaki shorts, turquoise crocs, baseball cap, and Pit Viper sunglasses. The get-up surpassed my wildest expectations. “Yo, bro!” an eighth grader yelled as he slapped me on the back. An abject look of horror washed over his face when I turned around. “Oh my goodness. I’m SOOOOO sorry, Mrs. Midani. Do you know you two look EXACTLY alike from the back? But again, SO sorry,” he said, backing away slowly, bowing and cowering all the way out of the hallway. My hilarity at this priceless moment knew no bounds!
We are now beginning another Spirit Week. By this point in the semester, my third graders are knee deep in Math facts. The spider in our first book of the year, Charlotte’s Web, has just died. I’ve spent a week helping my eighth graders write their papers about the nature of evil. Students have Science Lab write-ups, Geometry proofs, Great Books reading, and more. As teachers, we spend a lot of time trying to convince them to take these things seriously.
Why, then, interrupt all this important work with Spirit Week? I would argue that it is not only fun, but deeply necessary. As we and our students become serious about the serious things of life, there is a danger that we will take one thing much too seriously: ourselves.
At the end of the day, we are people. We laugh, cry, mess up, do wonderful things, think and feel deeply, work hard, and yes... sometimes we are even a bit ridiculous.
I am looking forward to delighting in this ridiculous week! Bring it on.