We have already met Delphine in her article on expat life in Rhode Island. We thank her for joining us again, this time with a very interesting article about social life in schools in the US.
What has struck me the most about US schools since my two girls entered Middle School (equivalent of collège in France) is definitely the incredible social life that takes place there and that has a role as important as learning itself.
The school schedule allows time for social and extra-curricular activities. Indeed, if the day starts early, between 7.45 and 8.30, it also ends early, between 2 and 3:30pm. There is no break or pause, and the lunch break is also very short, about 20 minutes.
At school students study but also live together, they are part of a community. Schools in the US strongly encourage the development of the same community spirit that is always found in cities.
It starts at the beginning of Middle School with a day called Locker Day and a picnic with the teachers to get to know each other. During Locker Day parents and volunteer students help newcomers learn how to use their new lockers and dial their code to open it.
In High School, Homecoming celebrates the beginning of the school year. During this day each student wears the colors of his year, the sports teams parade, games are organized, and the King and Queen of Homecoming are elected. The day ends with a football match and a ball.
During the school year a Spirit Week takes place. This week serves to educate students and come together under one goal. Each day of the week has a theme and students are invited to dress in the colours of the chosen theme.
On “Athleisure Day” students dress comfortably, in sportswear or even in pajamas. On “Pink Day” they support breast cancer research. “Orange Day” or “Unity Day” is devoted to fighting bullying, and on “Team Day” students wear the colours of their favorite sports team. Children get involved and become aware of issues affecting them.
At the end of lessons or before the beginning of clubs, courses take place and sports training is organised. Many students have “after school enrichment classes” (clubs), and meet the teachers to get help in the courses they did not understand. Others have training or games during which they are part of a school sports team.
And sports teams have a special place in community life. Team wear school colours and support each other in games that also bring parents together. Buses are even sometimes chartered by the school to allow students to come to support their school.
There is great pride in representing the school and being the best team in the state. Championships are organized between schools at the end of the different seasons. Team members spend a lot of time together, having dinners, parties to celebrate Seniors (students who will finish high school) and banquets at the end of the season. A match day is often a big event for the whole school.
Finally, at the end of elementary school, middle school, high school or university, a graduation ceremony is organized to congratulate students on their success and wish them good luck for the future. As a result, students feel that they have accomplished something important and value their efforts. And in High School a prom is also organized often within the school.
So, even though schools in the US are very competitive, students come out with a rewarding and memorable social experience.