My son has competed in 3 high school sports throughout his 4 years of high school. Since I may be his biggest fan, I have attended countless soccer & hockey games as well as track meets. However, it is only his hockey team that holds an annual Staff Appreciation Night. Indeed, I have not observed any other high school team host such an event. Last night, the Madison Eastside Lakers (comprised of students who attend East, La Follette and Shabazz High Schools) hosted this wonderful event one more time.
Last year, this event inspired me to write about how student athletics helps improve grades and graduation rates. Studies prove this and my observations of my son and his teammates verify this improvement in many cases. However, this year’s event, likely my last, gives me pause to reflect on the intangible ways in which appreciating staff enhances education in many ways.
We organize Staff Appreciation Night by asking the players and managers to invite any school staff member who means something special to them. This can range from a school custodian to a principal and every type of staff person in between. Thus, the appreciation begins before the actual event as the students must put some thought into whom they wish to invite, and actually ask the staff person (and perhaps more than one if the desired first choice is unavailable that evening). The athletes then give their chosen staff person their away jersey to wear to the game.
Parents provide potluck treats for staff (and the players after the game), as their own way of saying thanks to these special staff. We invite them to come early to enjoy these treats, and their early arrival also provides them a chance to meet parents, in many cases for the first time.
Every time we have held this remarkable event, staff enthusiastically participate and have a chance to provide unsolicited feedback to the athletes’ parents. Indeed, as I sat in the stands watching the game, teachers who had not yet connected with parents asked me to help them find them so they could talk to them. In our case, my son invited his Chemistry teacher, whom we had yet to meet. She had high praise for our son, which was greatly appreciated and I overheard similar conversations throughout the stands.
I also heard many teachers remarking at how impressed they were at how hard the boys worked at playing hockey. So, this event provides the opportunity to allow staff, students and parents to get to know each other more holistically, rather than solely through the lens of the classroom, school assignments and tests.
While no student athlete will be graded for his or her performance in a given sport, the benefits to both students and staff of showing genuine appreciation can be seen in the unrehearsed smiles from both.
On behalf of the Madison Eastside Laker parents, I extend my thanks to the dedicated staff from East, La Follette and Shabazz high schools, who gladly came to last night’s game, without monetary compensation, to cheer on their students who, in turn, extended their appreciation to their much beloved teachers.
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