As the summer holiday comes to an end, we begin to plan for the coming school year, getting our children's uniforms and bags ready and preparing them for a new academic schedule.
With this in mind, we asked Shanghai teachers to give their thoughts on how they embrace a new school year: from how to help children transition from lazy summer days to structured school schedules to the moment they know it's going to be a great year with their students.
So, as a new school year begins, let's see what the teachers of Shanghai have to say about embracing the year ahead. This week, we have a talk with Taryn Smith, who is beginning her ninth year as an English teacher at YK Pao School.
The word 'spirit' means different things to different people. For some, it means spirituality and the essence of who we are. For others, it means embodying an attitude to life, an ethos. For me, it means both of these things along with the concept of morale and camaraderie. As I began teaching at YK Pao School and the new academic year was about to start, the question became, "How can I get involved and encourage students to show school spirit?" And, the answer was simple, "Spirit Week."
In previous schools, I had experience in organizing activities that were specifically designed to bring students together. The aim of this was to instill a sense of pride, not only in themselves but also in their school and to engage them in feeling more connected at the start of term. But what could I do? I was new to YK Pao School and new to China, and I had no contacts or resources at my disposal. I also didn't know if my idea for Spirit Week would be accepted here. I had many concerns, and the school year had only just started.
In the lead-up, I organized a variety of activities for students to participate in, such as a bake sale where we donated proceeds to Tang Hui Nursing Home, an organization deep in Dabie Mountains chosen by students that helps the elderly. There was also face painting, a t-shirt design competition, dress-up days and lots of school color everywhere.
I needn't have worried that the students would not understand Spirit Week. In fact, the exact opposite happened. The students wanted to be as involved as possible in all aspects of the week. School pride was at an all-time high, and Spirit Week is now an annual event.
But it wasn't enough. Spirit Week had brought the community closer, and there were more requests for additional opportunities for students to come together. So, I organized Pao-Palooza. This event was a combination of all the pride of Spirit Week, packed into one day. It was planned immediately before the start of exams to give the seniors a relaxed send-off, but junior students were involved too. There was a movie night with popcorn, sporting events, track and field activities, and the biggest bouncy castles I could find. It was another success.
It is important to remember that no matter what definition we may choose, we all have spirit. The students at YK Pao simply needed an outlet to allow their spirits to shine. I am so thrilled to be a part of this community, and I cannot wait for this year's Spirit Week.
[Cover image via YK Pao School; Profile image via Taryn Smith]
Taryn Smith is from the US and is beginning her ninth year as an English teacher and her third year at YK Pao School. She is experienced in teaching middle school and high school sudents and especially loves facilitating extracurricular and pastoral activities at YK Pao School.