Spreading the ‘Viking Spirit’
At the heart of every school is the desire to feel connected and to be part of a community. 2020 was unlike any other year, and it proved to be difficult to ensure both connectedness and community continued to exist during the school year. However at Upper Merion Area High School, a group of administrators and teachers took this challenge and created an opportunity — an opportunity to design a virtual schedule where the first 30 minutes of the synchronized school day was used to spread the “Viking Spirit” and promote an environment of laughter, engagement and simple fun. The four days of synchronized learning each week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, were an opportunity to provide to the students what so many of them were missing and losing due to this pandemic.
Motivational Monday – Wow! – Always an inspirational day. It allowed students to feel encouraged. Stories of people who endured hardships but with resiliency, courage and the support of a community were shared and celebrated with students. On Mondays, clubs and sport teams were also able to showcase what they have been doing to better the community. Mini-THON continued to walk its 12-mile trek on February 13. Octagon still volunteered to help the elderly with their leaves and snow removal, while Best Buddies plunged into the cold Atlantic Ocean as if it was a humid July day. Motivational Mondays was a time to say, “Yes, we still can,” and “Yes, we still will!”
Transitional Tuesday was a day to celebrate the accomplishments of Upper Merion Area High School alumni and allow them to share helpful advice with the students on choosing college majors, being financially responsible, and purchasing their first home. The goal was for students to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that they will also encounter these same experiences and successes. Upper Merion Area Vikings will always have a support system whether they are in the building or graduated 10 years ago. Once a Viking always a Viking!
Trivia Thursday was a lighthearted and entertaining day. Whether students were taking part in Superbowl trivia games, Disney tune karaoke, or competing in the Thursday riddle, they absolutely loved this day. They always felt free to dance, sing, compete and show their beautiful faces on camera. As administrators and teachers, we were so proud to watch them connect with one another and simply be silly teenagers.
Finally, Feel Good Friday was another means for staff to express to students how important they are to the Viking Spirit. Inspirational videos, dance contests and preparing students for Homecoming by, of course, jamming to Taylor Swift’s, “You Belong With Me,” were staples of this feel good day. It was meant to be a lighthearted way to end a sometimes stressful week and remind students that the school recognizes that they are only kids and appreciates all the hard work they are putting forward every day.
Although Upper Merion Area High School has returned to in-person schooling, staff, students and administrators will never forget how difficult and daunting virtual learning was. However, through collaboration and ingenuity, it is possible to find the silver lining through the darkness. As a district, we are beyond proud that we were able to provide our students with an opportunity each morning to laugh, smile, and connect. We are confident that our students will move away from virtual learning with the impression that their school cares about them as people and appreciates the resilient, creative learners they are becoming.