Typically, it takes months and even years to prepare for the Olympics venue. Cities are cleaned up, arenas are built, and housing complexes are erected. Event organizers and volunteers arrive in droves to welcome and help the athletes, coaches, and spectators. The focus is on welcoming the athletes and providing them the best care and support to help them do their best. Finally, the opening ceremony commences, and everyone cheers on the athletes with prideful representation for their country and their hard work.
For a few weeks, Cinderella stories are shared inspiring grit, resiliency, and fortitude. Our TV seems to be on the channel 24 hours a day during this 3 week span in order to share in the triumph and celebration. History is made in front of our eyes as we cheer on those who embody perseverance and determination.
But, what happens after it's all over? What happens to the venue, the athletes, and the fans after the Closing Ceremonies? What happens when the cameras are turned off and the hype is over? What happens then?
"Post Olympic Depression Syndrome" is a real term. For the athlete, there's a huge void in what to do or prepare for after they've been training for years or even decades for that one event. Yet, the fans, especially the ones living in the host city, have a hard time recovering. Some people actually go through depression and even seek help.
There's so much build up for the event that, when it's over, there's a huge let down. Like the Fourth of July fireworks grande finale, all the planning and hype was done on the event with a shock-and-awe fervor; and then everything is over.
Silence. It's hard to recover from that.
Over the past few weeks, I have read and heard many great ideas to kick off the new school year. New bulletin boards. New paint. New furniture. Parent Nights. Student meet-and-greets. Don't get me wrong, I believe in and promote the need to create a welcoming and inviting environment so students can feel safe physically, emotionally, and socially.
Yet, so much attention, creativity, and energy is cast in the first week of school, and then it seems to drop off. For our students, we need to consider the "Post Opening Day Blues" - that time after the ice-breakers and socials are over. While, it may not be filled with ice cream socials or welcome-back picnics, the school year can continue to be upbeat and vibrant with activities to promote excitement and energy with the proper planning and attention.
Here are six tips to help ward off those "Post Opening Day Blues."
Tip #1: Build in Mechanisms to Track Student Comfort
Filling the hallways the first days of school is a smell of emotions from sheer excitement to utter fear. Some students are loud and others are quiet. After a few weeks, most students begin to show their true feelings, behavior, and attitude toward school. Rather than waiting until the end of the first grading period to reflect on which students need additional support or attention, create a plan that allows staff to reflect, observe, and track student needs immediately. Talk openly with staff to identify students who seem to be withdrawn or uncomfortable.
Tip #2: Make Sure Every Student Can Identify a Trusted Adult
Observe, survey, or even ask students point blank if they can identify a trusted adult at their school (note that I said adult, as it could be a cook, secretary, or custodian that they feel most comfortable with). If they cannot identify a trusted adult in the first three weeks of school, make a conscious effort and plan to make it a priority for success.
Tip #3: Make Sure Every Student Can Identify a Trusted Friend
This goes the same for having a friend. They don't have to be joined at the hip or hang out every Friday night, but every student should be able to name at least one person they would call a friend.
Tip #4: Watch Out For the New Kids
Keep an eye on new students - we seem to put the full court press on them the first week of school, but then support for them tends to disappear. Make sure to build in regular opportunities to check in with them throughout the year.
Tip #5: Promote a Theme for the Year
Students sometimes need on-going activities to keep them motivated. We tend to create themes around special holidays or events to motivate students, such as spirit weeks or testing. Consider a year-long theme providing students on-going excitement. I've seen unique and creative talents and excitement from students as well as staff and parents around themes involving books or movies, such as: Superheroes, Survivor, Dr. Seuss, or Harry Potter! Don't feel like it has to break the piggy bank - keep it simple and allow for others to be part of the planning! Consider family movie night, costume days, and even connecting the theme to school lunch menus, PTO events, and even after school activities.
Tip #6: Build On-Going Opportunities to Celebrate
Finally, we tend to only celebrate at the end of the school year to mark accomplishments of passing tests, grades, or behaviors. For some students, delayed gratification like this is too far to see. Instead, consider simple, on-going celebration activities that promote team and achieving mini-milestones. Students will have something to look forward to and be motivated throughout the year.