There Is Life After Homecoming
By Lyn Fiscus
The highlight of fall for most student councils is the Homecoming season. Traditionally full of activities and spirit, Homecoming takes a huge amount of effort and leadership to pull off. For many groups, it’s all downhill after Homecoming—both in the sense that nothing else is as challenging to organize or as much fun. Life after Homecoming doesn’t have to be a let-down though if you take steps to capitalize on the spirit of the season and make it last through the year.
Celebrate Your Success
Wow, you did it! You and your student leaders made it through another Homecoming. Whether it all went great or there were some parts that didn’t go well, your hard work and hours of planning made it happen. Take time to acknowledge that. Recognize group members with funny and appropriate awards; take time after Homecoming to go around and give shoutouts for each person. Have members create “mailboxes” out of decorated paper lunch bags and ask everyone to write notes of appreciation to all the people on their committee or in the council. Let everyone bask in the glow of knowing that they made Homecoming happen.
While you’re at it, do something nice for yourself for all the extra hours you put in during Homecoming. Indulge in something you love to do that you didn’t have time for during the busy-ness of HoCo: read a book, take a hike, binge watch a show. Families often get neglected during the busy times, so be sure to let those important to you know that you appreciate their support and patience. Make a commitment to be home early for a whole week to spend some quality time with your family.
While you’re appreciating people’s support and patience, don’t forget to send thank you notes to staff members, parents, volunteers, and community members who helped you make Homecoming possible. Handwritten notes that specifically mention the contribution of the person being thanked will help the person realize that his or her contributions were noted and appreciated. A batch of oatmeal raisin cookies left in the teacher’s lounge with a note thanking the faculty for their help “raisin” school spirit will be appreciated, too.
Evaluate the Effort
After the initial relief of Homecoming being over and the celebration of success, it’s time to evaluate the whole effort. Instead of just jumping in to planning the next thing on the calendar, take time to talk about what worked, why it worked, and whom it worked for. Discuss what could be improved next time.
A simple method of evaluating is to draw a line on the board or chart paper and put a + on one side, and a ∆ on the other. Brainstorm the +’s—things that went well—and the ∆’s—things that need to be changed next time.
While you’re evaluating, don’t just look at the projects. Look also at the process. Ask yourself and your group members:
- How did group members work together?
- Was communication clear?
- How were problems resolved?
- Did everyone fulfill their responsibilities?
- Did the organizational structure aid or hinder the work?
- What lessons can be learned about how you worked together that can be applied to future projects?
Another aspect of the evaluation could be to take a look at the tone that was created by your Homecoming activities. Consider the following aspects:
- Did Homecoming create a unified school, or is there a feeling of unrest or disaffection because not everyone was included?
- How did people respond to the activities and events that were planned?
- Who participated? Was it the same ol’ people, or was a more diverse representation of the student body involved?
If the overall feeling after Homecoming is positive, future activities can build on it.
Refocus Your Efforts
Capitalize on the spirit raised during Homecoming by brainstorming with group members about what can be done to keep it going. Discuss some of the following:
- Revisit your goals. Take a look at the goals the group set at the beginning of the year. After assessing how many of them were accomplished or at least begun during the whirlwind of Homecoming, discuss what’s left to be done. What activities need to be planned to help the group achieve the rest of its goals? Plan out a tentative calendar for the rest of the semester.
- Refocus on academics. How can you apply the Homecoming concepts to support the academic mission of the school? Perhaps you could have a class competition to see which class has the highest average GPA or the largest number of students who improved their GPA? Or plan an academic pep rally to recognize excellence in academics the way schools often highlight the sports teams. How about a quiz bowl activity featuring teams of students from different grades?
- Plan to involve people. Consider what your group can do in the future to involve those who didn’t get in on the Homecoming spirit. Is there an activity your group can plan that would reach out to a sub-group of students—an extreme skateboard demo after school, a car show, an esports tournament, a multicultural event? Make a conscious effort to plan activities that will get all students as excited and involved as the ones who participated in Homecoming activities.
Keep the Spirit Going
Consider turning the spirit competitions from Homecoming week into a yearlong effort with a class of the year competition. Sponsor a variety of events throughout the year and keep track of participation points for each class. The winning class could win a fun social event such as a barbecue or field day at the end of the year.