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What happened when a Jordan High ‘white out’ met a Columbus High ‘black out’

Students attend the Columbus-Jordan High School football game last year at Memorial Stadium.
Students attend the Columbus-Jordan High School football game last year at Memorial Stadium. Columbus

Many people compare a school to a slice of society, and if you think about it, the concept has merit. You’ve got the principal as the mayor, the administrative staff as the City Council, the teachers as community leaders, and, of course, the students as the citizens.

Even within the student body, there is an interesting parallel to the community. Slices from every demographic exist. It works, for the most part.

When things don’t run smoothly is when change is necessary. Think about all the sad and scary events happening across our nation where communities are not running smoothly. Change is difficult when it concerns people of different backgrounds, different cultures, different levels of intelligence, different everything. Trying to come together to first see the need for change and then to agree on how to change is an immeasurable challenge.

The same difficulty faces public schools. For instance, Jordan High is needing a cultural overhaul. Don’t read into that statement as a failure of allegiance to my beloved school. It’s a statement of fact. There are many facets of change the leaders in the building are undertaking. There are some painful, uncomfortable changes, but ones necessary for Jordan to better operate in solidarity. One particular adjustment, though, seems to appeal to everyone: the rejuvenation of Jordan Pride.

But just like a community, changing the culture of a school is difficult. It must be taught, little by little.

If a public school truly is a microcosm of society, then take what happened Friday night at the Columbus vs. Jordan football game as a glimpse into how revisions need to occur. Little by little.

Midway through the week of the big football game, someone at Jordan got wind that the Columbus High student body was going to “black out” the Jackets. Some teachers wanted to help usher in some school spirit, so they plastered the hallways with “White out the Black Out” and encouraged our school to wear white on Friday.

The amount of white t-shirts Friday during school was decent. It helped that our principal walked the hallways giving out free white t-shirts, but the faculty was excited about the participation, and there was a subtle change in the atmosphere.

The amount of white t-shirts at the game was a nice step in the right direction, too. Jordan students were there in good number, but were clumped together by cliques and spread throughout the stands.

Across the stadium, in contrast, it seemed the entire Columbus High student body showed up for the game and sat together in their black t-shirts. It was neat to see from the opposing side. Hundreds of kids sitting together in unity. Their cheers were loud, their dances impressively in unison. They obviously had done this before.

Jordan kids had not.

So, leave it to a few teachers to jump on the opportunity for a teachable moment. They went to each group and did what teachers do best – they taught. “Look at Columbus High’s stands. All those kids in black shirts are sitting together in what is called the ‘student section,’ which normally sits in front of the cheerleaders and beside the band. Watch what they do. Together as a group, they all unite and dance when the band plays and cheer when the cheerleaders cheer. That’s what you guys need to do.”

It was a real lesson in what social behaviors are “normal” at a football game. I, for one, had never seen that many Jordan kids at a football game, and I was willing to bet they had no idea what a true student section was. So they needed to be taught.

The kids’ faces demonstrated their newfound knowledge, and they got excited. They quickly migrated to the band and cheerleaders. Hopefully they had a little fun and will come back to another game.

As proud teachers, we sat with mixed emotions — sad our kids had never felt the camaraderie of a student section, but excited that they had taken a giant leap forward in changing the culture of our school. We didn’t white out their black out. We didn’t win the football game, either. For me, the night was not about competing with Columbus High. For us, for Jordan, it was about taking a small step in the right direction.

The cynics in the audience may laugh at us and think how silly. That’s OK. I want to highlight one thing – the unfailing power of learning. What a remarkable step of growth the students of Jordan made Friday night, and what a strong lesson Columbus High offered us to help our kids make that growth.

See? It isn’t about big, huge policy changes. It’s about small increments of progress. To change a community, it just may take the ones who have already made it there to look back and give the ones who haven’t yet a hand.

In this case, it took hundreds of black shirts to show a handful of white ones how to create unity, how to sit in school spirit.

So, thanks Blue Devils. Maybe we’ll get ya next time.

Sheryl Green: